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Selva has not worked since. His wife has served as breadwinner, working at the cafeteria at a school nearby. The couple, along with two adult children, live in a tiny room measuring 10 feet by 10 feet.

“Life is hard,” he says. “But I should be up on my feet in about two months thanks to the mobile ambulance team.”

Faith plays an important role in healing, Father Joseph says.

“Most people we work with are Hindus,” he says. “But it is not a factor in our service to the people. And these communities welcome us because we help when no one else does.”

The families are open to homilies, rosaries and prayers.

“When people are suffering, they need prayers. We pray for them; prayer and faith can work miracles.

“We also give them counseling to cope with their circumstances,” he adds.

Care for psychological and spiritual needs “helps as much as medicine,” Father Elambasseril says. “Those who are suffering physically also need love, care, affection and acceptance.”

In the village of Alancholai, Sree Kumar was an arborist. Two years ago, as he was cutting a rubber tree, it fell on him, paralyzing him from the waist down.

“People pulled me out from under the tree. But they pulled hard,” he says. That hard pull led to a severe hip joint injury.

The mobile medical care team visits to check up on him, chat and pray for him.

“That’s my socializing for the week,” he says. “The team comes to my house, they cheer me up.”

When Father Joseph sings a hymn, he closes his eyes and enjoys it.

Sister Savari, while new to her role as the team’s nurse, has worked with Adivasi communities before.

“The tribal women are shy about going to hospitals; they have their own beliefs and customs. They prefer using wild medicinal herbs to treat themselves. That’s how they’ve survived for hundreds of years,” she adds.

“But sometimes they absolutely need to go to a hospital and don’t.”

The society’s ambulance is parked about two miles down a steep hill. The team climbs the incline to reach a remote place called Anaimukham and visit Vijay Kumar, who had a stroke a couple of years ago caused by high blood pressure.

“He didn’t even know he had the condition,” says Father Joseph.

Vijay lives in a dilapidated hut with his family. Nearby, his wife and daughter look after two grandchildren, both toddlers.

In the surrounding area, poisonous spiders have woven huge webs. There is no cell phone signal; the nearest such conveniences of modern civilization lie half an hour away.

“We come here to check his blood pressure every other day and to make sure he is taking his medicine,” says Father Joseph. “Someone has to keep an eye out. So we do.”

But making headway into Adivasi and Dalit communities can be

slow going.

“Access is hard because of where they live,” says Father Elambasseril. “There’s a lack of infrastructure. There aren’t proper roads, buses or trains to get them into towns and cities. Or for others to come here,” he says.

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