Visit to Tamil Nadu January 2016
This is our 4th visit to Tamil Nadu to meet the families sponsored by our association.
This time we have decided to meet as many families as possible in their home in order to appreciate better their living environment : we will not be desappointed since we met more than 90% of
them at home.
The full committee met in Chennai on the 15/01/2016 to start the visit.
We drive south towards Puducherry (180km from Chennai) and stop on the way at Gingee where Father Nithiya and Arul Oli are waiting for us.
We visit small villages in the vicinity where sponsored families are waiting for us ; also families waiting for sponsorship.
We meet Jeevitha, mother of 2; she has also at home her late husband's 2 children (from previous mariage : their mother has passed away also). The grand mother is present. This family is sponsored by the association waiting for a sponsor.
We meet also Pushpa with her 2 children and her mother ; she has been very seriously injured : burn at the neck. She is waiting for a sponsor.
Maginai Rani with her daughter Evangeline is being sponsored already ; her house has been partially damaged by the recent flooding ; we will give her when we come back a week after a cheque amounting to 75€ to help her repairing her house. Her husband suffered from Aids and passed away, she is HIV positive. Her neighbours keep her apart but since our visit it seems that she is better accepted by the vicinity.
It is then the turn of Leema Rose (already sponsored) : her house has been completely demolished by the flooding : we will give her a cheque of 435 € (part of the donations received during the General Assembly) : this sum should help her very much for the rebuilding of her house.
Arul Oli and Fr Nithiya take us to Aaron and Rosalia house. They are parents of 2 children 21 and 17 years old : both of them are fully handicapped (mentally and physically) ; they cannot speak, cannot stand, they keep laying on the ground all the time ! The parents are very brave and look very depressed. We were very moved to see their courage: we told them that they will be sponsored very quickly ; that news gave them a bit of hope.
We return then back to Villupuram where Fr Felix is waiting for us for lunch at his parish ;
When we are about to leave we meet Maghimai's family : grand mother with her 5 grand children ; their mother died and their father had abandonned them few months before ; in addition their house was completely destroyed by the recent floodings. One week later we managed to collect 1000 € from the son of the family sponsoring her : thanks to this generous donation this grand mother will be able to built a new house with more resistant materials.
We continue then our trip with Fr Nithiya towards Trichy where the Director of Udhayam and Francis Xavier are waiting for us. We meet in their residence, located 200 m from Udhayam office and set up the programme of the next 4 days.
Saturday the 16th of january.
The sponsored families have been invited by Father Nithiya to come to Udhayam office to meet all the members of TNEN committee. Upon our arrival chidren and adults start singing a prayer. Very moving moment to meet all those families, some of them for the first time. Father Nithiya and Father Irudhaya Rani (deputy Director of Udhayam) welcome the attendance and introduce the members of the committee. Everybody delivers a short speech.
Then we meet each family one by one in the Director's office for about 15 minutes each. Father Nithiya and Francis Xavier translate english to tamil and vice versa, since we are not yet fully acquainted with the tamil language !!
During the individual meting each family's situation is being reviewed : health, education, difficulties ...( many children are very good at sports !! ). Father Nithiya takes this opportunity to
advise some teenagers (taking into account their results at school) to look for manual labour rather than following long studies : it happens that fitters and welders for example can find a job
From time to time we have to deliver a strong warning to husbands being inclined to drinking and consequently to being violent to wife and children: Francis Xavier is asked to follow closely such behaviours.
Photos are taken during the individual meetings.
Lunch has been served to all families in the Udhayam big meeting room.
All meetings are completed by late afternoon ; it has been a long day for us but also for the families : some of them had to travel long distances by bus, sometimes walking, to come to Udhayam and to travel back !!
But we all were overwhelmed by emotion, beautiful smiles, sometimes tears...it was very moving day.
We announce that we will visit all families at home during the next 3 days.
Sunday the 17 th of January.
We start our visits in a village located in a very remote area, west of Trichy, where we meet Kalyani, HIV positive widow, mother of 5 (4 girls, 1 boy) : children do not have Aids .
The eldest daughter is married, mother of a 3 months old daughter. The second is very good at drawing : she showed us a book with many beautiful sketches; she has carried out in front of
their house a nice Kolam drawn with chalk : this is the custom for the Pongal festivities.
The roof of the house is made of palm leaves and does not look perfectly watertight !
They offer us a dish made of sweet rice on a banana leave, excellent. Half of the village has come to see us !
Then we move to another village to meet Ilanghiyam’s family, a couple parents of 2.
The eldest, 13 years old girl has accidently drunk kerosene when she was very young : she got a burn gullet, shrunken now. She is being fed by a hose connected directly to her stomach: she shows us her tommy, poor little girl !! She does not grow normally, she is much smaller than her 7 years old brother! She is medically followed and has to undergo a very expensive treatment in the hope to be able to eat normally in the future and to start studying at school! She show us her drawings of which she is very proud.
Their house looks comforable enough : walls built with strong materials, tyled roof, electric fan...
The father, lorry driver, inclined to drink is sometimes violent to his wife : Father Nithiya and Pierre reprimand him firmly, in front of his wife (very happy to witness that) and threaten him to cut all future donations should he not stopped !" Money is sent for helping children education not for buying alcohol !!" Francis Xavier will follow closely his case.
We meet then Irudaya Mary whose husband lost his life in 2004 from the tsunami. She is sponsored since 2005 and has been able to raise her 2 children (15 and 13 years old) who start being good at english. They both want to study computer.
Mary lives at her parents home with one sister : a hearty meal was offered to us.
We move afterwards to another village where the government has built 10 m2 houses to fix migrant families : difficult to understand how a 6 or 7 persons can live in such very tiny house. Three families are sponsored ; the fathers use to sell some items built at home by their spouses .
We are thereafter welcomed by Rengaraj's family : his wife is pregnant ( their 4 th child). The husband's sister has just been married : Rengaraj has to pay for the dowry and had to borrow 2000€ for that. How can he manage to reimburse his debt ?
Later on Muniappan's family ( 5 children) and Kannan's ( 4 children) join us ... So many people .. Difficult to breathe !! Muniappan has been facing a brain stroke recently.
On our way back we meet Father Isaac who has been kind enough to drive from Dindigul (100 km south of Trichy) to allow us to meet Visuvasammal sponsored from 2005. She looks in better shape than 2 years ago when we met her.
At the end of the day we met Lashmanan, a blind couple, who were waiting for us to celebrate the first birthday of their son while their 3 years old daughter was singing a brilliant " happy
birthday to you ".
Monday the 18th of january.
Father Nithiya has to go to Chennai to get his visa for Italy : he will meet again Pope François in Rome.
Francis Xavier and Jacob take us to meet Kokila, young lady abandonned by her husband, mother of 2 children (8 and 6 years old) ; she lives at her mother's home. She suffers from arm and shoulder and she cannot any longer carry household works.
Francis Xavier advises her to resume grinding flour as in the past.
TNEN gives her 3000 indian roupies to enable her to carry out radiological exams.
In the same street we meet Silambayee, (66 years old) grand mother of 2 children : a teenager girl of 16 years old and a boy aged 3.
Their mother passed away when she gave birth to her son, the father was gone already. It is the eldest daughter(16 years old) who is the bread winner of the family : she works in spice factory. She commited herself to push her brother (the king as she calls him) to become a doctor : we were very moved by her strong will and her courage. What an example !!!
Still on the road to meet Julie Santhana Mary ; she was carrying out houseworks and her neighbours went to fetch her : she had a leg very badly broken 2 years ago ; she is recovering slowly : she lives with her 2 daughters at her parents's house.
We drive aftewards to a sri lankese refugees camp : its access is not permitted, hence we meet in a church nearby first Udaya Rani and her 2 children in their school uniforms,very proud of their sport medals ; then Anthony Jeevarathinam with her daughter Sisilia : he is raising his 2 daugters alone since his wife has left them ; they all have health problems.
On the road out we meet Victoria who has left to buy gifts for us.
Late in the morning we arrive at Mary Hilda's. Her husband having fever for 2 months must meet a neurologist.
Her 5 years old daughter whom we met few days before in her arms managed to walk a bit in front of us in spite of her heart and leg problems. Mary Hilda has prepared for us a gorgeous lunch !!
We keep driving again a long run towards Tanjore (60 km) where we meet Ariockia Mary ; she has been a widow for 12 years and is living with her parents and her 2 children, 20 and 17 years old, both very sportive and very good at school.
The boy wants to enter the police department and the girl in the army or the bank !!
Arockia Mary sells snacks for her living and tells us "smiling keeps my problems away" .
Excellent philosophy ! This is indeed a very nice family where smiling and laughing is their way of life.
On our way back to Trichy we stop in a slum where we meet Valarmathi. She is living in a less than 10 m2 room without any window. Her Husband is an alcoholic. They are living with their 2 daughters 9 and 12 years old and a grand mother suffering from vitiligo.
Pierre reprimands him and threaten him to stop all support they are getting should he continue drinking.
Sarah and her 2 daughters with the face veiled joined us at Valarmathi's home : they are living next door in a very small room also. The husband died from TB ; Sarah works as a houseworker for 5 families : the 2 girls are good students.
Tuesday the 19th of january.
Still xith Francis Xavier and Jacob.
We drive a long way to reach Thurayur (60 km from Trichy) and meet Amsavalli who lives in a small hut in a remote village : she is a very deserving lady.
She lives with her parents in law, her handicapped husband (polio): it was a " love" marriage, which is quite seldom in India. Her husband spends his days sitting in a cart (less expensive than a
wheel chair) and her 2 daughters are not in good shape , one is diabetic and the other is having hips problems.
She has 7 goats and works as a coolie. Her husband is getting a small pension from the government (1000 roupies a month) . She is the one to carry her husband whenever it is necessary.
Amasavalli cuts her hair as a token to get a better life !!
Her husband told us " my wife and my daughters are wonderful, thank you God, God is great ". That is true, Amasavalli, in spite of her tough life, is always smiling and looks happy. She is teaching us also a lesson of life !
Back at Trichy where we meet Subathra. Her house is in a very poor condition. Cracks through the walls, roof to be repaired, etc... Her son has been working for an oil Company for 6 months, but on a day to day basis. Her daugter works well at school and wishes to become a tax collector. Subathra works as a coolie in the fields.
Francis Xavier will have to ask for a quotation for repairing the house.
Later on, close to Trichy we pay a visit to Vinodhini who is much better now : apprently her husband has stopped drinking and is no longer " violent". They have a 15 month old baby Kanisha who loves her dad very much.
The father works as a storekeeper in a carrying company. Their house was given to them by the husband's parents: small but in good condition.
We are then taken to a family where the 20 years old son is having a hip problem following a motor bike accident : he can neither work nor sit down. He needs to have surgery but it is too expensive : we have asked Francis Xavier to look for a public hospital ang get a quotation from a surgeon. To be followed. This family is not sponsored.
We reach afterwards a village built long ago by Udhayam : the houses, very small, one room only are in very poor conditions and might be demolished soon.
We meet Aldrine Mary a blind woman very educated, able to speak english, she lives in a very humid room, helped by her neighbour Rosi Mary, Aldrine is sponsored by the association.
Rosi Mary is suffering from asthma ; she can no longer live in her room because the ceiling is in danger of collapsing ! She lives at Aldrine Mary's place with her younger son John Kennedy who wants to be a fitter.
In the same street we meet Madasamy, his wife and their eldest daughter who will be soon a nurse.
Next door we encounter Amalraj, father of 2 young daughters and his brother Susairaj with his daughter : the 2 wifes are at work, we will not meet them this time. The 2 brothers do not need our help any longer. But we keep close contact with them since they have been sponsored from 1986 !!
At last we complete our visits at Francis Xavier home where we meet his wife and 2 children : his wife works very often at night as a midwife.
On the 20th of january we drive back to Puducherry.
Just before leaving, we had breakfast with Fr Selva who guided us 2 years and 4 years ago when we visited Trichy. He has been appointed in a small village nearby.
We arrived at noon at Villupuram where we meet Fr Felix. We have the pleasure to meet again Betsy, an american lady very much involved in humanatarian actions : she use to spend 6 months a year at Villupuram to improve the education of children : she discloses that very often in Tamil Nadu children who have reached 10 th standard still cannot read !!
We go then with Fr Felix to meet 3 families sponsored by members of the association since 2005 : Livina Mary's family ; the twin young girls's family (Leema and Leela, 5 girls altogether) ; and after Deepa and Siva taken care of by their grand mother.
Those 3 families live in very small huts. The twin girls's hut has been partially demolished by the floodings, we will give a cheque to their mother.
We drive then to our hotel in Puducherry (1 hour to drive there).
The next day 21of january we are joined by Fr Nithiya and Arul Oli and resume the visits of families (sponsored or to be sponsored by our association).
We meet first Kalai Selvi and her daughter, waiting for sponsorship. Afterwards we meet at home Siryia Pushpam (sponsored) with her 4 children, whose hut has been completely distroyed (we will give her before our departure a cheque of 435 € to help her rebuilding her house). For the time being she lives in a temporary shelter.
We then go and meet Magdalane (to be sponsored) ; her husband has been assassinated, she knows the killer but says nothing fearing retaliation. She lives alone with her 2 children, she is not well accepted by the villagers, but she does not have any choice.
We return to Villupuram and go with Fr Felix, FrNithiya and Arul Oli to meet Maghimai whom we have met last week (grand mother taking care alone of her 5 grand children).
She knows that we will provide her with significant financial support to rebuilt her house, she feels relieved. We are surrounded by the family and their neighbours very cheerful, everybody wants to have his photograph taken. For the time being, waiting for the reconstruction of her house this grand mother + 5 are living in the grand grand mother’s hut (very poor condition) : because of the lack of space she keeps with her only one grand child, the others being sent at the orphanage.
On the next day we resume our marathon, visiting families with Arul Oli (Fr Nitiya had to go to Chennai for one of his friend's funerals. He will join us back the next day for the general gathering with all families.
We first meet Maari whose the youngest daughter has to undergo heart surgery within few days.
Afterwards we visit a couple of blind persons, parents of a 1 year old girl and a 3 years old girl, Monisha : this family will be very quickly sponsored .
We go then at Murugan's, mother of 3 daughters. The parents are very often away from home (sometime more than a month) since they both are working far from home. The 3 daughters stay then alone at home. They are sponsored.
In the same village we meet Themnozi, abandonned by her husband, mother of 2 daughters, waiting for sponsorship, and another mother of 3 girls with an old husband to be sponsored too.
We pay visit to Arul Oli's family, and meet his wife and his 3 children.
Last visit of the day : Christa's family (to be sponsored) : she is alone to raise 2 young children ; she lives in a hut close to the paddy fields.
On the 23/01, our last day, we gather at Fr Felix's parish with all families.
When we arrive we are very happy to see Abiramy, Savariammal and Johncy, the 3 young students we have been sponsoring for 11 years ; Abiramy will be a nurse in a year time, Savariammal is finishing her post master (Computer) and Johncy is working as a commercial agent in a company.
The families arrive little by little for the general meeting, and they are soon all here sitting.
Before the speeches by Fr Nithiya, Fr Felix, Pierre and Monique it is time for group photos.
This general meeting was a very moving moment : after the speeches many families spoke out, expressing their gratitude and their thanks to our association : they all stated that our action has changed their life. Some of them with tears in their eyes !
We were so happy and rewarded to see all chidren, parents, and grand parents smiling to us !
A lunch has been offered to all of them. As usual they sit on the ground to eat !! But they are happy ! They are served by our 3 students (see above) and our driver who has been witnessing all our visits from day one.
Just before leaving we have the pleasure to see Alexander (FHF Cuddalore) with the 2 families sponsored there. Alexander has been kind enough to travel from Cuddalore to Villupuram to save our
We are happy to meet VImala sponsored by our New Zealander friend and Dinee's mother who is to finish her studies within a year.
Fr Nithiya joins us on our way to Chennai which we reached around 7 pm.
Our stay in Tamil Nadu is now over : we are a bit tired because it was very dense, very moving. But we are flying back home with our hearts filled with joys and emotions.
All those families we are helping a little, give us every time we visit them a lesson of courage, they teach us every time what is the most important in life : love, solidarity, compassion. In spite of their difficulties they keep hope, they keep smiling...That is a lesson !!