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“We now have to charge a minimal fee so the girls can be here. We’ll have to see how it runs as a boarding home. If we do not enroll enough girls, we will have to shut it down altogether,” she says.

Other than a minimal amount per month that St. Mary’s takes from the parents of the girls, the sisters and their charges live off the land. “We grow coconuts, areca nut, tapioca, bananas and rubber. If there’s anything in surplus to our needs, we sell it locally. That helps with some income,” Sister Ancy Maria says.

“For now, at least, our doors are open, even if it is as a boarding home for girls who go to school or college. The rest, time will tell.”

Sacred Heart Balanagar, about 20 miles from Cochin International Airport, was founded as an orphanage in 1910. According to its administrator, Brother George Kumminithottam, the need was overwhelming.

“There were a lot of orphans or poor children just left on the streets,” he says. “They never received any education or protection. It was to help those children that Sacred Heart was founded.”

The former orphanage, run by the Congregation of St. Teresa, today calls itself Sacred Heart Hostel for Boys. In May “we were forced to change its classification status from orphanage to a boarding house because we could not meet the demands of the new rules,” he explains.

“Who knows what will happen in the future? As of now, this is status quo,” Brother George says.

From the time of its founding, he says, the orphanage had adhered to “humble” principles, prioritizing need above all else. “There was never any discrimination on the basis of religion,” he says. At its start, it hosted as many as 300 boys of various religious backgrounds.

Today, this institution still stands true to its principles, albeit with fewer residents — 60, at present.

“We take boys from age 5 and above. They stay with us until they finish high school. We also give them vocational training so they can earn a livelihood. For example, they can train to be electricians, plumbers or carpenters,” he says.

Faith plays a major role in all the places mentioned here. “Christian-run institutions are about character formation. We nourish children in spirituality and faith. These give the children a moral and ethical compass.”

Yet, each institution is very particular not to proselytize. “We teach them that there’s a higher power — that they should trust this higher power, the Almighty, in times of need. If the children have faith, and trust, it makes their lives easier.”

Electing to go without government support, the hostel takes its funding from a variety of sources. “Their parents pay us money toward their stay and food. Some funds come from our congregation. CNEWA also provides funding,” the brother says.

At lunch time, 8-year-old Abin rushes in with other boys. Abin’s parents are from Kerala, but they left to make a living in Delhi. The young boy speaks Hindi, Malayalam and some English.

“I really like it in here,” he says. “I’ve made friends. We play together and celebrate all festivals.

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