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“My father was a legal advisor,” she says, “so he inspired me to enter this field. My mother has been very encouraging, too.”

Shilpa Joy’s job as a therapist requires her to deal with many people every day, something she would never have imagined when she arrived at the sisters’ doorstep, a child escaping a violent home plagued by alcoholism.

“At the children’s home, I learned to adapt, live and work with many different kinds of personalities. I came to understand other people and see how the many other children are. Living with these different types of people helped me to get out of my childhood introversion,” she says.

Recently, Ms. Joy started a new job at the Home of Peace — a center dedicated to children with disabilities, run by the Daughters of Our Lady of Mercy — a stone’s throw away from her home with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Indeed, the sisters have welcomed her to live with them once more, temporarily, as she searches for an apartment.

At work in the Home of Peace, Ms. Joy makes use of all her professional skills, providing physical and speech therapy. She also has to adapt constantly to the very specific and sometimes acute needs of the children at the home.

In the home’s physical therapy room, a sort of gym adapted to special needs, one boy works on his balance by sitting on a large ball. Another boy, who wears a prosthetic lower leg, practices walking on the treadmill. At a nearby table, Ms. Joy performs stretches and exercises with another boy who suffers from cerebral palsy.

“Now, I can cope with all kinds of personalities or with difficult people or situations. I have learned, at the children’s home, how to cope with such things.”

After work, she goes back to her accommodations with the sisters. There, she serves as a sort of role model and counselor to the children in the home. She helps the girls with their homework and she urges them to strive for great things.

“I try to share my own experience with them,” the young woman says. “It is a way of trying to motivate them to go further, to study further and to have a happy, fulfilled life.”

All three graduates of these child care initiatives of the church have a striking sense of civic duty. Being from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds and seeing the transformative, empowering effects of a stable upbringing and a good education, they have each become staunch advocates of social justice and charitable works. Each has a keen wish to “give back” and to help those in need.

“They are brought up and educated in a Christian atmosphere, to be socially-committed citizens,” says Father Aikkara, the children’s home director in Palakkad. “They develop a spirit of sharing and concern for others and a sense of responsibility, because at the children’s home, they imbibe values such as truth, justice, loyalty, trustworthiness and forgiveness.”

“I will practice under a senior lawyer once I get my final law school result, but my ultimate plan is to help the poor with my skills as a lawyer,” says Ms. Narayanan.

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