7 February 2013
The girls being cared for at St. Joseph's in Kerala look forward to a brighter future. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
When is an orphanage not a home for orphans? The answer, we found in 2005, can be found in one haven for young girls in India:
Most of the girls at St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Pulincunnoo, Kerala, are not orphans at all. They have parents and, in most cases, remain in touch with them. A few of the 32 girls at St. Joseph’s come from broken homes, but most come from poor, intact families. And it is the poverty of the parents, combined with knowing that St. Joseph’s offers their children a better future, that explains the girls’ presence in Pulincunnoo, a small town beside a small river in central Kerala.
The orphanage was built in 1973, next to a primary school and high school, all of which are run by the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel. The primary school, 100 years old, serves the area’s boys and girls, while the high school, built in 1975, is only for girls. The orphans attend classes with the girls and boys of Pulincunnoo.
“I was scared at first to come here,” said 9-year-old Nivia, who recently moved into the orphanage. “But now I prefer it here. I had friends back home [in Aleppy], but I have more here. And I have more opportunities to play and study.”
Sister Flower Mary, 61, runs the orphanage and enforces a strict schedule. The girls rise at 5 a.m., attend liturgy at 6:15 and study until breakfast at 8:30. From 9:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. they attend school, with a one-hour lunch break. After school, the girls play until 5:30, then study for two hours before prayer and dinner. Afterward, it is another hour of study. Bedtime is at 10 p.m. The girls are ambitious. Neethu, a 15-year-old basketball player, hopes to become a sister, following in the footsteps of Sister Flower Mary. Sister Ancid Maria, 15, was enrolled at St. Joseph’s when she was 3 and entered the community’s novitiate earlier this year.
“From a very early time, I knew I wanted to do social work and help out,” she said. “And I thought the best way to do that would be to become a sister like my teachers.”
Read more about St. Joseph’s ‘Orphans’ in the September 2005 issue of ONE.
Tags: India Children Education Kerala Orphans/Orphanages