Balamma Satrum Home for the Needy
Fr Jeff’s Journal – Week One
24th September – 1st October 2012
This is my fifth visit to India and the excitement of what lies before me is ever present on my mind. The two-day journey with Mary Skaag gives me some relief as to travel on my own would be very tedious. Our visit gives great support to Fr Sarves who has been quite ill recently due to the stress of the present situation in South
India. The lack of electricity and water has made daily life very difficult in the rural
parts of the country.
Mary and I travelled from Newcastle via Heathrow to Hyderabad a journey of 12 hours. As a Registered Charity, we were allowed to take six suitcases – 69Kg plus hand luggage. These cases were full of medical supplies and educational equipment for the village. In Hyderabad, we had two cars waiting for us to take us on our
journey to the village which was another twelve hours away by road. We had a lunch break at the Salesian College, this is a charity home for street boys who have no one to care for them. In return for our meal, we were able to help the Salesian Fathers financially to look after the boys.
On arriving at the village the first thing that struck me was the immense heat. It was like a sauna. Even though it was dark I could see that the ground was parched and we were told that there had been no electricity that day. Supper was prepared of a very simple meal of rice and dahl which is the local food of the people. After supper,
we went to bed and we had to endure the heat of the night, which was 35C. Sound sleep was almost impossible as I kept waking up due to the high temperature.
Wednesday 26th I woke up at 5.00am with the cockerel crowing! No showers or bath just a bucket of water and a jug – but, I am used to this now. For us bottled water is essential as we are unable to use the local water (when they have it) due to many diseases being carried in it. After breakfast, all activities are done outside as it
is so hot. We only go back into our rooms in the evening. The morning was restful with Holy Mass later being at the heart of our day. This was a celebration shared with Catholics, Christians, Hindus and Muslims. During the day we met the elderly and some of the young people who were trying to greet and speak to us in their own mother-tongue of Telegu. A local family came to visit the village. Their brother had been killed in a road accident five years ago and as this was his anniversary they sponsored a meal for the whole village in his memory. This was also done out of appreciation for the work we had done for the poor. Our lunch was a simple meal of 3 rice and dahl with an Indian omelette. This is the typical food we have at every meal each day. The rest of the day was used to discuss the project with Fr Sarves as he gave a report on the elderly and the children being cared for.
Thursday 27th Today we celebrated Fr Sarves’ birthday and so we had a concelebrated Mass with six priests and the Sisters who help in the village. The girls who have been given help through our financial aid were also present. Today is the feast of St Vincent de Paul, the saint of the poor. Not only were we celebrating Fr Sarves’ birthday but we were also highlighting and giving thanks to God for all of our work with the poor. During this coming week, we are preparing to visit all the sponsored children in their schools. However, we are ready for the unexpected which has always happened on every visit.
As in all my visits, I feel that we meet Jesus face to face every minute of each day. We see his need in the sick, the disabled and the abandoned. I feel privileged that God has given me the grace to respond to his call. I also thank God that parishioners in our diocese have supported this project that is transforming, saving and enriching so many people’s lives. God’s Kingdom is being lovingly established as we serve one another.
As St Augustine said – “What I am is God’s gift to me. What I become is my gift to God.”