Helping The Poor
Saint Joseph’s Mission Fund’s primary commitment has been to provide financial assistance to extremely impoverished and elderly persons in southern India through two organizations: Help the Needy Society, and St. Joseph’s Social Welfare Center. SJMF provides more than half of the operating funds for these organizations. The organizations also generate some of their own income from farming and cottage industries.
SJMF also provides grants from time-to-time to help the impoverished Adivasi tea workers in Assam, through the auspices of Fr. Caesar Henry.
Grants are provided to all programs without regard to religious preference or caste.
St. Joseph’s Social Welfare Center
St. Joseph’s Social Welfare Center is located 10 miles north of the southern-most tip of India. There are about 60,000 people crowded into this area. Because of the poverty in the region, we minister to the people without regard to their religious beliefs. Sixty percent of the people in the region live in abject poverty. They lack the basic necessities of life, such as shelter, food, clothing and drinking water. Work is seasonal, generally as agricultural laborers. Annual per capita income is less than $200, resulting in a hand-to-mouth existence. We help them survive; especially the weakest: the women and children.
St, Joseph’s Social Welfare Center supports the following activities for the benefit of the poor and destitute in the area: St.Joseph’s Orphanage, a Home for the Destitute & Elderly, Women’s Self Help Groups, St.Joseph’s Mission Hospital, a Tailoring and Embroidery Unit, Help to Leper Families, and Help to Destitute Widows. The following is a description of these various activites.
St. Joseph’s Orphanage
This Orphanage was started in Vellamadam in 1979 with 12 destitute children. Currently there are 81 children including 3 grown up children living at the orphanage. They are between the ages of 5 to 18.
The children at the orphanages are very well cared for by local standards but they have only the basics by western standards. They sleep on mats on the floor and are required to assist with chores around the orphanage. Rosa, a retired school teacher and the orphanage administrator, has chosen to provide care for as many children as possible with available funds and this does not permit many frills. Nevertheless, the children are most grateful for the care they receive, and appear happy, vibrant, and spirited. Visitors to the orphanages are uniformly impressed with the facilities, residents and staff.
These children are fed, clothed, housed, educated and cared for medically and spiritually until they are self-sufficient. Food, clothes, fees, medical aid and other needed items like soap & oil, stationery, notebooks, and textbooks are given freely. The orphans are educated in the local Government school and in a private school at Nagercoil. Many of the children have at least one parent; but they are so poor that they give their children to the orphanage.
The orphanage needs much work to improve its facilities. For example, the older girls need a separate room to sleep in. We need your help to allow us to build more and take care of the existing infrastructure. Space exists for additional orphans if the required financial support can be provided on a sustained basis.
Home for the Destitute & Elderly
An old age home cares for between 10 to 20 residents who are too old and sickly to provide for themselves, and have no one to care for them. It is not uncommon in India for sons to turn out their parents when they become a burden. Ten years ago, these elderly were living in a thatched roof hut. Today they live with dignity in a clean building, on simple cots, but with a solid roof over their heads. They are given free food, clothes, and medical aid, and all of their other expenses are met. Some of them are able to engage in minor tasks such as looking after chickens or assisting with cottage industry work. The aged are well cared for until death. More elderly can be admitted if the facilities are expanded.
Improve sanitation and health
The organizations SJMF supports in India are located in one of the poorest regions of that country. Facilities and life support systems that are considered vital in most of the world often do not exist there. Many houses are cardboard and thatched roof shanties, sanitation facilities are primitive, and water must be carried from miles away when local wells fail. Only one in 500 houses has a sanitary facility, indoor or outdoor. The water from shallow wells is contaminated and can only be used for irrigation. Water from deep wells contains excessive amounts of minerals and turns food yellow when used for cooking. Funding by SJMF has been responsible for:
Establishing, staffing and maintaining a small clinic
Building sanitary facilities for the orphanages and schools
Building community sanitation and washing facilities
Providing training in sanitary practices
Drilling numerous wells to provide safe, clean water near living facilities
Building low cost houses for the homeless that include indoor latrines
St. Joseph’s Hospital
Although the locals refer to the facility as a “hospital”, the facility is a small, four-room clinic has been established to care for the orphans, residents of the old age home, and the poorest of local villagers. The hospital services an average of 40 patients per day. A qualified doctor and several nurses provide medical care with their salaries being provided, in part, by SJMF. The orphans and abandoned elderly are assured of consistent, adequate medical care because this facility is on the mission compound. Some home visiting and home health care instruction is also provided.
The establishment of a local clinic has made medical care available to many who could not afford the lengthy and expensive trip to the nearest large medical facility.
The orphanage administrator, Rosa, also is the moving force behind a wide variety of self-help programs that Father Joseph established and SJMF continues to support. Destitute young women, often with small families, are organized into small groups. They pool their meager resources and help one another with micro enterprises such as preparing food for sale along the road that passes through the area, operating small one-room shops, preparing and bagging spices for sale, doing sewing and fancy embroidery work, rolling small indigenous cigarettes called “beedes,” and learning how to establish and run small businesses for profit. Some small loan assistance is provided for micro enterprises, for head-load vendors (people selling what they carry about on their heads) and for establishing small shops and businesses.
This program also provides a library, a rural information and documentation center where illiterate are taught to read and write, news is disseminated among the rural folks, and the people are encouraged to sustain rural folk music, dances and culture.
Low-Cost Homes for Homeless Families
SJMF also funds construction of small, but well-built houses for donation to poor villagers. The families we are helping currently live in huts constructed of branches and cast-off materials, and covered with palm fronds. Nearly all of these are three-generation families of four or more individuals from children to grand-parents all in one small hut.
Each house is roughly 17 feet by 20 feet, with block walls, concrete slab floor and reinforced concrete roof. Most of the houses have a veranda where people can sleep in hot weather, a main room for living, eating and sleeping, a small kitchen and a small storage room that also has an indoor sanitary facility; the latter is unique for the poor in this part of the world. Walls are finished off with plaster or stucco.
Since starting this project in earnest in 2005 after the tsunami left so many homeless, funds for ten homes were received in 2006, and funds have been raised to build four more in 2007. Our long term goal is construction of a total of 50 homes at a current cost of $4000 each. Funding for all or part of these remaining homes would be greatly appreciated.
The recipients of these houses contribute toward the land or the cost of building the house as they are able. These proceeds are then used to leverage our existing funds in order to build more homes with the available resources. This approach also allows the individuals to feel a strong sense of ownership and responsibility for the house, and reinforces their self-esteem.
A female goat or cow, as well as a few chickens, are provided to poor families with the provision that the first female offspring be returned for donation to another family. This enables the poorest families to have a greater degree of self-sufficiency and a hope for increasing their financial resources. Banana and mango plants are also provided to establish trees in family gardens.
Providing young adults and the older residents of the orphanages with a skill to enable them to support themselves is a vital aspect of life in southern India. Training classes have been held, on a continuing basis, in a variety of trades and skill which include:
Carpentry, masonry, bricklaying
Sewing and tailoring
Fancy embroidery work
Small gasoline engine repair
Assistance to Adivasi People in Assam
SJMF also provides assistance to the Adivasi people in the northwestern state of Assam, India. These people are workers in the vast tea plantations of Assam. They are also homeless and extremely destitute. Fr. Caesar Henry, a Catholic priest and an Adivasi himself, has begun to minister to these people to meet their most basic needs, such as clothes and warm blankets. He is assisted in his work by several women religious. There are no health facilities for these people and the death rate is very high due to malaria.
Fr. Caesar and his workers try to spread the Good News by providing material assistance to these impoverished people without regard to their religious beliefs.
SJMF accepts donations on behalf of Fr. Caesar to assist his work in Assam.
AIDS Home for Children – Africa
SJMF has recently commenced providing financial support to the Nyumbani Children’s Home in Kenya. The Home cares for infants and children who have, or may have, AIDS. SJMF is seeking to expand its assistance to this worthy cause as funds become available.
Support is provided to the Nyumbani Children’s Home in Africa in response to the rising number of HIV infected children in that area. Because many infants carry their mother’s antibodies through the first year of their life, a number of these infants are abandoned by their parents simply because they may develop AIDS. The Children’s Home provides care or these infants, and other children, until a permanent home can be located for them. The Home cares for approximately 100 children from all parts of Kenya.