The Coordinator of the Famvin Homeless Alliance (Mark McGreevy) visited India a couple of weeks ago. The following is one of a short series of reflections on what work the Vincentian Family in India is doing in the field of homelessness and in particular in celebration of the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism by involvement in the 13 Houses Campaign. This piece focuses on the Congregation of the Mission in the southern Indian province.
From 8th August 2018, severe floods affected the southern Indian state of Kerala, due to unusually high rainfall during the monsoon season. It was the worst flood in Kerala in nearly a century. Over 500 people died and thousands of houses and businesses were totally destroyed. As an emergency response the Vincentian Family across Kerala opened up their buildings to provide emergency shelter for those affected. They also organised themselves to help families reclaim their homes, when the water subsided, by physically picking up shovels and clearing the mud and debris from houses and roads in affected areas. As if this wasn’t enough the Vincentian family have also pledged a long term involvement in helping to rebuild peoples lives.
The Congregation of the Mission of the Southern Province of India have agreed to build 100 houses to help the poorest victims of the disaster. So far they have built 35 simple, two bedrooms, family homes of a robust quality which will survive any future disaster and they are also ensuring that each family has some kind of livelihood to sustain them as they rebuild their lives as part of the overall development plan. Families are identified by local parish priests based on need and not their religion – Catholic, other Christians, Hindus or Muslims are all included. The photos below show the type of temporary encampments which families have been living in since the floods and the typical standard of housing built for these families.
In addition to their work in flood relief the Vincentian Fathers in Southern India decided (in 2016 and before the floods) to celebrate the the 400th Anniversary of the Vincentian Charism and take an active part in the 13 Houses Campaign by donating 10% of their income to partner with their parishes across southern India and build houses for the poorest in those communities. So far they have built 50 houses and will continue to build a minimum of 25 houses every year. This is a tremendous contribution to the 13 Houses global goal of housing 10,000 people in the next 3-5 years. We all have much to learn from the work and commitment of the CMs in Southern India and how we might replicate it elsewhere.
Fr Tomichan Mattathiveliyil the Provincial Superior of the the CMs in southern India said “The poor are our masters” and we give our best to our masters”.
I have been overwhelmed by the energy and the ingenuity of the CMs here in Southern India. Their commitment to the poorest of the poor and to charity which enables people is inspiring.
More stories from India concerning other members of the Vincentian family – the Vincentian Congregation, the SSVP and the Daughters of Charity – as well as plans for collaboration are already available on the Website, an opportunity for you to help with these efforts in India.
Coordinator Famvin Homeless Alliance