Staying Apart Yet United
The global pandemic COVID-19 has affected every nook and corners of our country and state and the Sisters of St.Thomas the Apostle Province of Chennai, rooted in God and in solidarity with the poor in the margins of the society were urged to respond proactively to the need of the hour of this challenging time. The Communities felt the need to collaborate, network, join hands with one another to reach out to the poorest of the poor. Within a few days of lock-down Mother Provincial Sr.Lazar Maria Nirmala sent an emergency circular requesting the communities to take up the relief work joining hands with the educating community, teachers, volunteers, police personnel, past pupils, and workers to reach out to the people who are affected due to lock-down. The communities responded to it with diligence, courage, creativity and generosity. Here are the reports of some of the communities of the province.
First and foremost all the communities of our Province in Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka started with the daily Eucharistic adoration throughout the day, one or a group of Sisters taking turns to sit at the feet of the Lord to encounter Him and plead His mercy thus constantly interceding for the people who are affected due to corona virus.
All the workers of our houses are paid full salary even if they are not able to come for work due to lock-down and were provided with the provisions and necessary things to cook a decent meal in their family.
REACH OUT PROGRAMMES
Provincial House, Kodambakkam
From March 26, 2020, around 1200 families in the outskirts of Chennai were provided every day at their door steps Kabasura Kudineer, a drink that increases immunity, by Social Development Office (ARUWYE) volunteers. Besides, the team decided to support these families for their daily meals since they did not have any work to earn their daily bread.
On 01 May, 2020, Sr. Provincial along with the Social Development Coordinator Sr.Kanikairaj Shermila and her collaborators went to the remote villages like Vallalarar Nagar, Ramachandrapuram and Soorapoondi in Gummidipoodi Taluk of Thiruvallur District, in the outskirts of Chennai, where the migrants of the neighbouring State, Irullar families and relocated people from Chennai city are placed without proper houses and basic facilities. They distributed 200 provision kits around this area. The people of the relocated site requested the Sisters to provide for them some job opportunities and to give vocational training for women that could enable them to earn something and live a decent life.
On the 14 May 2020, Sr Nirmala Lazar, the Provincial, Sr.Kanickaraj Mary Tamizharasi, the Secretary and Sr.Kanikairaj Shermila the SDC along with the SDO staffs and few youth volunteers in collaboration with the village panchayat leaders went for the second round of provision kit distribution at Suravarai Kandigai Village for 30 Gypsy families and at Siruvada Village to 209 families. The people of the villages and the leaders were very appreciative of the help received in the crucial time of need.
Mary Immaculate Convent, Tirupattur
Sr.Ambrose Arokia Jayaceli along with few Sisters and lay collaborators identified poor students of their school and reached out to 100 students’ families by distributing provision kits and Rs.1000 assuring them of their closeness and concern. With the help of Volunteers the families of gypsies were reached out in Idhya Nagar, Tirupattur and were provided material help. On Good Friday, two hundred police personals were provided with snacks and the sisters spent some time listening to them and assured them prayers. With the help of one of the Police officers they were able to reach out to four interior villages in the Police vehicle and provided food and masks for those people. They also gave awareness regarding social distance for the People. With the help of a past pupil from the police department they provided the Provision kits for the aged people in various places around Tirupattur.
Nandambakkam – Marialaya, Chennai
The community of Nandambakkam on different days in various areas provided the provision kit to 2500 persons belonging to 500 Families who are displaced by slum Clearance Board of Tamil Nadu at Kannagi Nagar. Sr.Mudiappaswamy Nirmala along the coordinator Sr.Sathiya in collaboration with Fr.Sudhakar the Parish Priest of Thoraipakkam reached out to Slum dwellers, Construction workers, Migrants, Scavengers, Menial workers by distributing Provisions, Masks, Sanitizers and medicines. And they plan to do more in the coming days.
St.Joseph’s Convent, Arni
Sr.Lourdusamy Ugini Fatima and the Sisters of the community of Arni reached out to all the poor Catholic families of their Parish and the neighbouring parishes: rice and vegetables to 500 families of Arni and 13 Substations; 50 rice bags to Mosavadi Parish; 25 bags to Kasthambadi and Gangapuram Parishes and 100 rice bags to Cheyyar Parish. The Sisters provided 32 rice bags to lepers families and 30 bags for gypsies families; 10 kg rice to 110 families of deserving school children, 30 families of matriculation school teachers and 25 kgs of rice for 45 workers’ families. With the help of the women self help groups stitched more than 4000 masks and sold them for a very nominal price. The community supported the Policemen who toil day and night to maintain order with 120 food packets, soft drinks, 12 tons of rice and dhal and other provisions. They help regularly 450 families in 2 Sri Lankan Refugee camps at Velapadi and R.M.C, Committee near Arni by providing rice, provisions and masks. Thanks to the divine providence and the generosity of the benefactors.
The community of St.Mary’s Vellore along with their animator Sr.Antonyraj Christina and volunteers of Educating Community plunged into action to reach out to 1000 families in their neighbourhood. It was carried out in three phases. In the first phase on the 21 April 2020, with the help of the parish youth, 150 families in Kaspa area were given rice and vegetables. On 22 April 2020, 500 bags with rice and vegetables were prepared with the help of teachers, parents and Vides members and the Sisters distributed them to the people of Karugapudur, a small village near Pallikonda. On 5 May the community distributed rice and vegetables to 300 families of their school children.
Auxilium College Community – Katpadi
From 28 March 2020, almost every day, the community of Auxilium College along with their animator Sr.Kunnathu Anna, was reaching out to different groups of people in various ways: food packets and juice bottles to hundreds of people on the roadside, butter milk and medicinal herbal drink to police men, feeding 100 old people at the old age home, Shenbakkam near Vellore, distributing 400 food packets to women workers, people at Kazhinjur village, Valli malai to Katpadi road, Tiruvalluvar Nagar, VG Rao Nagar, Karigiri and Rountana to Silk Mill road on different days, providing 200 bags of rice and dhal to the people of Srilankan refugee’s camp, Abdhullapuram Vellore, serving breakfast for a group of people (75) and giving provision (rich and dhal) and distributing provision to 30 people. Some of the Sisters personally met people (on alternate days) and distributed 5 kilos of rice and dhal for Srilankan refugees, Jogi village people who are working as Scavengers, people who are in Kaginallur, T.K Puram and the Irrullar Tribe and some tribals of the mountain surrounding Vellore.
Auxiluum Home- Katpadi
Auxilium Home Community guided by Sr.Mariadoss Amala, the animator, reached out to the people in Kangeyanallur, Gandhi Nagar, T.K. Puram, Virudampet, Kilithanpattarai, Senur, Kalinjur, Vanjur and provided them “Provision Kit” which contains rice, oil, dhal, vegetables and all the necessary provisions. Apart from it the Community provided five sacks of rice, provisions, vegetables and firewood to “Mother Teresa Home for the aged” in Shembakkam as they have to take care of hundred people every day.
Sacred Heart Convent – Polur
Sr.Irudayam Nirmal Rose and the community Sisters of Polur reached out to the poor in neighbouring villages of Polur. On the 6 April, 75 bags of rice, wheat, oil, dhal and ingredients were packed by the community and were distributed to 3 sub stations namely Padiayampattu, Kalur and Kappalur in collaboraton with Fr. Victor SDB, the Director of VIA. On the 7 April the same things were distributed to Gypsy families in Kondam and Allinagar, around 32 families from Fr. Villonova memorial place who have grazing sheep as their main occupation. On 11 to 13 April around 100 people from the parish and nearby villages were given same help. On the 15 April help was rendered to 22 Irullar families who live in a remote place. On 30 April, 158 families of Sri Lankan Refugees camp at Thenpallipattu, were given rice, wheat, oil, Rava, dhal and ingredients. Their act of solidarity was recognized by the media and was televised in the local channel.
Our Lady’s Convent, Chetpet
The animator of Chetpet Community Sr.Susairaj Sheila along with the Headmistress of Auxilum Elementary School Sr.Maria Louis Sirumalar celebrated the feast of St.Mary Mazzarello on 13 May along with the poor children of Elementary School by sharing grocery items for their family members.
Communities of Sri lanka
The seven communities in Sri Lanka reached out to the affected people according to their possibilities with the help of some generous benefacators. Sr.Irudayanathan Agatha and the Sisters of Urimpirai helped 15 families in their neighbourhood providing them rice and dhal. Sr.Paul M.Mary and the community of Vavuniya distributed provision kits to 100 families including the families of war-orphans who are married already. On 14 May Sr.Mathew Alice, the animator of Jaffna did Financial assistance to 12 families and distributed provisions to 18 families. They also visit the sick and the old, listen to them and pray for them.
During the covid-19 lock-down days the Sisters are able to experience protection and providence of God, the goodness of people, learn the art of networking with the people of good will, the spirit of volunteerism, the ethics of enough and moderation. Together with global world we witness to the need of staying apart yet being united with the whole world through our prayers and acts of solidarity giving light of hope and joy to the humanity.
Placing our trust in Jesus our Lord and divine healer and master we journey ahead hoping that we will be delivered very soon from this dreaded virus disease and resume our normal life once again. We hope to continue our journey in solidarity with the needy and suffering people.
Reported by Sr.Kanickaraj Mary Tamizharasi FMA