Pratheeshs father died when he was seven and his mother barely gets by as a sweeper, considered the lowest of the low in the Indian caste system. What a lucky break the Malankara Boys Home has been for Pratheesh!
We are poor people, we do not have enough food and life is hard back home. Father Jose is a very fine man. He helps us a lot. Thanks to the opportunities he provides, I can go to college and become a teacher.
The boys are given numerous chores while living at the home, for which they are paid a nominal 25 rupees (about 50 cents) a month. They also receive prizes of about 100 rupees for academic excellence and cultural achievement. On the homes four acres of land they look after six cows, which provide their milk. The boys also maintain the homes biogas generator, which uses cow dung to create methane gas for cooking. They feed the rabbits, clean the buildings and serve the meals. And some, like 12-year-old Jamon George, enjoy working in the garden.
Gardening is fun, says Jamon. I also enjoy school. English is my favorite subject, but I also like math, social science, Malayalam, Hindi, Sanskrit and sports. Im crazy about cricket!
Half a dozen boys were playing the game enthusiastically when I visited. Their wickets were made from old sticks, while the bat was adapted from a piece of fence board. A tennis ball replaced a regulation cricket ball. In the same field another group of boys played basketball. Each time they scored, all players from both sides clapped in appreciation, as if good sportsmanship were more important than competition and winning.
Father Jose explained that fighting and conflict are virtually unknown among the boys at Malankara Boys Home. They are very peaceful, he said, in spite of their difficult histories.
We aim for character building and total development of personality through a holistic approach. We teach the difference between good and evil. We live as one family, and there is an atmosphere of love here. Prayer and meditation are a part of our daily routine.
That routine starts early, with a wake-up bell at 5:00 A.M. Fifteen minutes later the boys are on the roof learning karate from Father Jose, himself a black belt. Karate, asserts Father Jose, teaches the boys discipline, concentration and self-respect, but they are also taught not to misuse it. After a morning bath they have 30 minutes of morning prayer and meditation. From 6:45 to 7:45 there is morning study, followed by a vegetarian breakfast. Afterward the boys are tutored according to their individual needs. By 9:15 theyre off to the government schools for the day, each carrying lunch in a metal container. Returning by 4:30, they eat a meal, then different groups set about their evening chores. They also find time for sports and play. At 6:00 there is another bath, then two hours of study, supper at 8:30, a little recreation until 9:45, followed by a prayer and sleep at 10:00.
If you study well you will be a good man, explains 14-year-old Sujith. Knowing this, he doesnt mind that schooling at Malankara Boys Home continues over the weekend, when eight teachers from the community arrive to help. They include a religious sister and brother, a bus driver who is also a graduate and three other teachers. Three of them are Hindus.
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Tags: India Children Education Poor/Poverty Syro-Malankara Catholic Church