For the past several years, St. Patrick's Parish has been supporting the school and orphanage, Ashadeep in Bujnor diocese in North India. Through the parish's Oktoberfest and BBQ and the Advent Giving Tree funds have been raised to buy cows, solar panels, computers, sewing machines, a school bus and money to start a poultry farm.
The idea of the poultry farm is not only to supply a food source for the orphanage but to eventually have an income from selling the eggs and an opportunity to teach older students, particularly the disabled, agricultural skills. The same applies to the dairy farm, which now has a herd of 40 cows providing more than 200 liters of milk every day. Attached to the dairy farm is a biogas unit which converts manure to provide enough fuel for the entire institution.
St. Patrick's also supported another institution in the diocese, Premdham. This is a home for young boys and men, physically and mentally disabled, abandoned by their families and are living in the streets. Some are terminally ill and also bed-ridden. Part of the funds raised by the parish went into buying an auto-ricksaw, which is very cheap to operate, and can be used to transport children and goods.
The school of Ashadeep, St. Joseph's, integrates the disabled children from the orphanage into the regular classes. This is very rare in India where disabled people are often abandoned and neglected. There are 650 children in the school from 3 to 16 years old and, till now, the main language of instruction has been Hindi. In recent years, some classes were started where the language of instruction is English.
In 2013, the parish was able to raise funds to buy a school bus and school supplies. The school bus allowed young girls to be able to safely attend school and enabled children from the orphanage to seek medical care at the hospital which is 5 hours away.
In January, 2016, Barbara Galbraith made her eight visit to Ashadeep and spent two weeks working with the teachers in the English Medium kindergarten classes. This was rewarding, as the teachers are anxious to learn new strategies and approaches in the classroom. She also took a supply of Math materials to teach Math concepts, but also found that the school lacks any kind of children's books in English.
A small group of parishioners visited Ashadeep in November, 2016 (at their own expense), and established a small English book library in the school as they began to offer the English Medium program to the children. The books have been generously provided for by St. Patrick's parishioners from the Book Drive done over the summer of 2016!
Money collected for Ashadeep were sent directly to the school, without loss to fees to banks, the government or the local diocese. The funds were applied towards the purchase of tools and equipment to be used in teaching the children vocational skills, so that, though disabled and disadvantaged, they will have a hope of surviving, and maintaining a dignified life, when they are too old to remain in school.
On several occasions, Bishop Vadakel, with the priests and nuns who run the school and care for its children, have expressed their profound thanks for the interest St. Patrick's has taken in their school.
We thank the parishioners of St. Patrick's for providing much needed funds (and prayers) to support this cause!
For more information about Ashadeep and Premdham, please contact the Parish Social Justice Committee. If you would like to contribute to this program, you may do so by contacting the parish office.