Dear members of the Inter-Orthodox Centre “Porefthendes”,
Rejoice in the Lord always.
We send you the latest material from the last ordination of two priests and the progress of projects at the “St. Ignatius” school (construction of emergency exits and exterior hygiene facilities). They are works required for the certification of the school by the official educational institutions of West Bengal.
The operation of our two orphanages continues normally, thanks always to donations of our Greek and Orthodox supporters worldwide. However, in the general climate of crisis and with the sharp decline in donations for Mission, it is hard not to worry about the future of the orphanages. That which has been achieved all these years with the grace and blessing of God and with the help of our donors, is being tested by the decline in contributions and the increasing cost of living in India.
We know that our long-suffering country, Greece has been affected by the worst recession in the last 50 years and it is already called to meet the ever increasing needs for feeding and housing needy compatriots. To a lesser extent the financial crisis is affecting other countries, where our expatriates are living.
It is extremely difficult for us here to extend a hand begging to Greece, our wounded home. Respecting the dire economic situation of the country, we do what is humanly possible and try to cut operating costs in recent years, cutting costs of activities that are necessary, but in comparison to the care of our orphan children, coming in second place; our clinic in Calcutta has ceased running as and on site of the Orphanage for Girls.
We have also made staff reductions. These are painful but inevitable actions for as long as we keep the pulse of life in the orphanages. We have reduced the high cost of the children’s education: as you already know from previous reports, in India, where the level of state education is very low, only private education is sufficient to allow the future autonomy and dignified survival of orphans. In order to reduce costs and tuition, we have utilized a building originally intended for other use, converting it into a school that is attended by the younger children (up to the sixth grade so far). We allowed poor children of the area registering for a nominal fee, hoping thereby to cover part of the teachers’ salary. The operation of the school “St. Ignatius” was deemed a lifeline, since otherwise we would not be able to cover the tuition for our young children.
But our great anxiety about the future of our institutions remains, considering the dramatic price rises in India and, at the same time, the decrease in donations. The increase in electricity, gas and oil bills is unprecedented. But worst of all, there is the huge increase in the price of food. In the last two years the cost of feeding our children and providing meals to our soup kitchens has been doubled. For this purpose we have been trying in recent years to lay the groundwork for the development of the land at the back of the orphanage for girls, creating a farm. The farm has been a dream of ours for many years, but the cost of prerequisite work made it difficult to create. But the rising prices in India and the economic crisis in general make the issue more crucial than ever: It cannot be postponed any longer.
We dreamed of exploiting the land and of the creation of our farm. The area is large and it can produce quantities sufficient to achieve a significant degree of self-sufficiency to feed our orphans and support the soup kitchens in Calcutta. At the back of the area we designed some simple housing for poultry and in front of this, a vegetable garden. There is also a section of the land that is essentially a lake where we can breed fish, as it is customary for the Indians.
The much longed – for establishment of the farm is taking a long time to complete. Whatever we begin to create, it is brought to a halt and put on hold by the reduction of donations until some amount can be collected again for this purpose. But the rapid increase in the price of food every day brings to the fore the need to produce our own food. We must feed the orphans at all costs, but also the provision of rations to the homeless in Calcutta must remain stable and intact and should not depend on whether there are donations and how high they are!
We are called now to reduce the charity work’s dependency on Greek donations and go ahead with projects that will allow for its financial independence.
So far we have completed the following projects with the money that has occasionally been collected for the establishment of the farm:
- Basic landfill and elevationof the area (it was an old paddy field and tons of materials were required for its elevation and draining).
- Fencing for most of the planned area with a wall.
In brief the work that still needs to be done is:
- Completion of the fencing and reinforcement of the existing fence in some places where there is pooled water.
- Continuation of the landfilling and then laying of fertile soil.
- Create spaces for rearing poultry.
The completion of the fence is urgent and important for another reason: in the past month several violations and thefts have occurred in the area. Someone removed the iron door that was recently installed in a corner of the kraal. They have even cut trees that encompassed the pond intended for rearing fish. Several trees have been removed, while other trees have been half cut down. It seems that they come at night and fearing being noticed, they chop down a little each time. They will obviously sell these trees for their timber. But it is valuable for us as we use their fruits to offer to our children. They also form a boundary for the lake and above all, make it safe to approach as their roots hold its walls together. It is necessary for all these obvious reasons to make use of this land. Some people (perhaps by necessity) watching the unexploited space – though hopefully not for much longer – exploit it in our absence.
We fear that the objective for the establishment of the farm may seem excessive to our tried homeland. But we cannot cease dreaming and providing for the needs of the orphaned children that God has entrusted to us. We cannot let what has been done with the sacrifice of mite of every known and anonymous donor collapse from the shocks of the financial crisis. We cannot allow the land of our orphanages stay unprotected in the face of robbers, those who do not realize that what they steal, robs the orphans. Out of love and respect for the “widow’s two mites ” that arrive here, we are called to protect what has been created so far with infrastructural works and to ensure the greatest possible self-sufficiency and self-reliance of our institutions, thus embracing the most sensitive creatures of this hard world; the orphans.
With love in Christ,
From the progress of the works at the “Saint Ignatius” School.