Emily Green – Sixth Form Student at St Thomas More RC School, Blaydon
Over the duration of my visit to the village of Balamma Satram in January 2016, I was amazed by the village and the work that has been done and continues to be carried out. It was obvious to me, through my visit, that the work of the charity is greatly appreciated by those who live in the village. I think it is great how the village helps those who would otherwise be in hopeless situations.
Prior to my visit, I heard appeals given by Mary Skaag both in my school and local church. I was taken aback by the situations in which some of the guests, as they are called, had found themselves in prior to being taken care of by those managing the village. During her appeals, Mary explained why the charity exists, its aims and objectives. From this it was clear that the village helped a large number of people who were in need of care.
The most outstanding thing about the village is the family feel which has been created by the love and care given by the workers to the guests. The guests are given the necessities but are given much more in the way of affection and friendship which provides joy and comfort to them. Mary gives a strong message that all individuals should be given the dignity that is the right of all people. I have seen Mary put this message into practice by giving each person respect and showing a true interest in each individual.
The village is not just for the elderly, there are children who are cared for also. They are given a childhood to be thankful for. Mary has provided many toys from the U.K. and it is touching to see the joy that these bring and the friendship that is created in the sharing of the bike and scooters etc. The children are also allocated a sponsor by Mary, this sponsor funds their education. This means that the children are able to go to a good school and get good grades, allowing them to study for higher education, get a good job to support their subsequent families.
It is only through the hard work and dedication that Mary has put into this work that has made the village what it is today, helping the amount of people who are living there. Mary has made what was an idea into a reality and has helped many people in the process. Mary has saved the lives of many people and is a true inspiration to me and to others.
Hannah Green – Sixth Form Student at St. Thomas More RC School, Blaydon
During my visit to Balamma Satram in January 2016, I was inspired by the work being done by Mary Skaag. The message that she has portrayed in her many visits to my school and local church have been strongly reinforced during my visit to the Balamma Satram village by the commitment and dedication with which she carries out her work. The key purpose of this charity is to offer help, support and guidance to those most in need, but Mary goes much further than the requirements of her role by bonding with the people and treating them with the respect that they deserve, which is so sadly forgotten in similar establishments. By speaking with the “guests” of the village, it is clear to me that the work being carried out is having a profound positive impact and is greatly appreciated by all involved. The work of the charity over the last 15 years can be seen both through the development of the village itself; the latest addition being a new hospital block and also through the lasting impact which can be seen to have on all those it has touched. The sick and the dying have been given the appropriate help and dignity both in life and in death. Many young people have been supported through their education so they will one day be able to support not only themselves but their future families. It is clear that the work done by this charity has restored hope and confidence to people who would otherwise be forgotten; and for me, this is the most powerful message of my visit.
My hope is that with the necessary support, Mary is able to continue her work with the charity, so that it is able to develop further and continue to help those in need. In doing so, I hope the message Mary spreads about the development of India at the expense of the poor can be promoted further, so that eventually all those in need may be helped.
Mary Skaag – UK/India Co-ordinator
“Living for a cause – doing something meaningful”
When we live for a cause, serving humanity, especially the downtrodden, we experience true happiness and fulfilment of our lives. During the last fifteen years, I have been overwhelmed by the affection of the poor people of our home in the Balamma Satram village. The warmth and love that we receive from these people is a prized possession; these years have been a life changing experience for me. The happiness and sense of achievement this work has given to me is irreplaceable as I look into the eyes of all those who have been given a purpose in life and the will to live again. During this Lenten season, please join us by serving these poor people by offering a sponsored gift to those who do not even have access to basic facilities.
Natalie – Coventry
Living in poverty is an integral and inescapable way of life for the majority of the people in India. Travelling through India highlighted this and the unique nature of Balamma Satram, which stands on its own, offers indebted help to those in need. The people housed at Balamma Satram were grateful for the slightest gesture of affection and care. It was sad to see that they felt that they owed something for this care, but it would appear that these low caste people seem to accept their lives as they are. The fact that the children being educated are talking of giving back something in the future illustrates the value placed on Balamma Satram by them as a refuge in Kadapa and why financial support from England is so crucial.
Fr Jeff Dodds
Fr Jeff who has visited Balamma Satram six times and has worked with us since our humble beginnings. “Having been part of this India project from the beginning, I have seen an amazing development in the way care is provided for the real needy for our work today – the young, elderly and the sick. Money raised through parish appeals and various sponsored events has enabled through parish appeals and various sponsored events has enabled accommodation and medical facilities to be available where it is most needed. Children have been supported through school and college and given the chance to reach their true potential and then be able to seek worthwhile employment. Holy Family Home for the Needy is an oasis of God’s loving presence made possible throughout generosity here in the UK.”
Balamma Satram at Holy Family Home for the Needy, in South India, is a project that I have been personally involved with since 2005. On many occasions, I have visited and seen first hand the life-transforming work this project brings to the real needy of our world. The sick in this rural village are healed and others were given a dignified place to die. Children are educated and given the opportunity to find suitable work that will help to support themselves and their families. The elderly are helped to no longer feel a burden to others in their extreme poverty but offered a new purpose and so contribute as best they can to the daily running of the Home. Jesus’ invitation to care for others is lived out in a very real and loving way by those who support this project. The work being done is an inspiration to many in the Church and the wider Indian community. Without a doubt, God’s Kingdom grows and flourishes at Balamma Satram. May God continue to bless all those involved in this project. “All of us who are baptised are missionary disciples. We are called to become a living Gospel in the world.” (Pope Francis, Twitter, 25th February, 2014).
Margaret Price – Consett, Co. Durham
Extreme poverty is everywhere in the cities, the town and the villages. This experience stays with you because of its intensity. We can make a difference to the peoples lives by sharing a little of what we have. The home for the Needy shows what can be done for the old, the young, the sick and the lonely. This project needs our support. it offers hope where there is despair.
Alex and Jake
Alex and Jake were only 10 years old when they first visited Balamma Satram.
We have visited the Holy Family Home in India twice and nothing could have prepared us for the unified love that we felt among the people. We had seen photographs before we went, but we could not have imagined the magnitude of the poverty of the poor people. We were also amazed at the splendour of the buildings and the beautiful chapel that has been built through people sharing their love. Children in England do not appreciate what they have. Before visiting India we both expected so much from our parents, however, when you see children without food and clothing and not a toy to play with, it makes you think twice about what you ask from here at home.
Fr David Gnosill
The Parish of Corpus Christi in Coventry has supported Fr Sarves and Balamma Satram since 2004. Fr Sarves is well known now to the people of the parish, in fact, he is regarded as an extended member. His warm smile and gentle nature are always welcome. The people look forward to his annual visit, as they do also to the update which is given each year by Mary Skaag. It came as no surprise that I said “Yes Please” when I was asked to visit Balamma Satram to see the work that had been done by our financial giving. I had never been to India so I went with an open mind, albeit that I was well used to India’s cultural delights from the Indian community living here in Coventry.
After a long flight, we were greeted by Fr Sarves at the airport and then began the long twelve-hour journey by road to Balamma Satram. I thought my driving was in need of improvement but in India, it is every car, truck, bicycle, cow, pig and man for himself! The Indian motorist made my driving skills almost faultless. Finally, after a very long journey, which was broken by a short rest at the Salesian fathers in Kurnool, we landed at Balamma Satram. Once I got over the fantastic welcome from the people, I could see for myself the full scale of the project that had risen from scrub, desert land to a small community of buildings orbiting around the chapel which housed the Blessed Sacrament. Like a monstrance in the church, these buildings, bedrooms, kitchens, and hospital, radiated from the centre of the Eucharist and formed a true image of the Body of Christ in action.
The next two weeks were one of insight into the spiritual and the education of the village and its people. Here I was able to witness the marvellous work of the church in action. Christianity may be a minority religion in India, 5.8 million out of 1.3 billion, but there does not seem to be many people or places which have not heard of St Thomas the apostle, who came to India in the first century AD, to preach the gospel. O, I feel an outburst of pride and a desire to sing Faith of our Fathers. To think that we in Corpus Christi, are part of the living Body of Christ in India, it makes me feel so proud and humble. From a people, who at times appeared to have nothing, what they had was themselves and they gave themselves to us in gratitude and affection. We often think in the West that we are helping the needy, but in fact, it is the needy who help us to fulfil ourselves as human beings and conform us to the image of Christ.