Crossing a river to reach a mountain village for a visit
Introduction: Nestled in the lap of nature, towards the north eastern part of India, Raipanka is a village situated in Gajapati district of Odisha, the erstwhile Orissa. Gajapati is one of the least developed districts of Odisha with an area of 4444 sq. kilometers. There are 1583 villages and 129 gram Panchayats. It has a population of 6.58 lakhs including 2.98 lakhs of Tribals and 0.59 lakhs belonging to socially lower castes. The literacy level in the district is 41.73% for males and 21.98% for females. The majority of families in the tribal areas live below the poverty line.
These socially and economically impoverished people are often threatened by the elite and upper caste, resulting in a treacherous plight of losing their house and livelihood, often displaced out of the political vested interest of the ruling class.
Handicapped children with parents who received certificate
As an extension of the Community of Shanti Rani Bhavan, Gopalpur-on-Sea, from the year 2011 onwards, we, the FMMs of Mumbai Province have been living in this place, Raipanka, which is 200 km away from Gopalpur. It takes about 5½ hours by public transport to reach this, our small insertion.
Through our Pastoral mission we reach out to 28 villages out of which only six villages are on the plains; all others are in the mountains. Some of the villages are very small. The majority of the people are Catholics.
92% of the total population are Catholics, comprising 506 Catholic families, with 6% Baptists and 2% Hindus. Each Catholic village has its own Patron Saint to be venerated. Every celebration of the feast is prolonged for two days. Every Eucharist is celebrated with much gaiety and liveliness. Each feast is embellished with the tribal dance and music which goes on for hours, culminated in fellowship meal and exchange of pleasantries. Music is in their blood; they are blessed with sweet voices and a tremendous amount of creativity.
We, the sisters are given a room and kitchen at the boys’ boarding home by the Diocese of Berhampur. In one room we three sisters share our life. Our cupboards are under the beds. Though the room is small it contains many things. We have accommodated our necessary things, medicine, etc. Seeing our living conditions, the Bishop and the fathers have given us another room to keep our medicines. The simple life style makes us care for each other more. At the same time, we are glad that we are able to identify ourselves with the people for whom there are no houses of their own. They are depending on God, like the Israelites longing to enter the promised land.
Climbing the mountain for field visit
Health ministry is one of most important ministries in this area. People believe in us blindly. They consider that we have special God-given healing powers. We treat the patients with love and concern: we pray with them, and give Jesus to them through our health ministry. We treat them at a minimum cost. In this way, we reach out to people of all religions and castes. The brethren of the Hindu community place a lot of trust in us and they remain very close to us. We have won the hearts of the Hindu brethren through our health ministry. Often we come across more Hindu patients than Christians. Though there is only one trained nurse in our community, the situation has made all three of us to function as nurses. We do have a very good relationship with the PHC doctor who is ready to help us at any time. Last year we treated 500 malaria cases and people suffering from diarrhoea, chickenpox, scabies, abscess, etc. Since we do not have a separate room for a Dispensary we were keeping the medicines under our bed and treating the patients on the veranda; whenever an IV was needed we were administering it at one side of our kitchen. But of late, our parish gave us a room to have a dispensary. Though we are provided with a room temporarily, its roof is under repair.
Health awareness program
Life here reminds us of the early years of the life of our Institute. We realize that even when our country has made giant strides towards economic development and even rocket science, there are many places where not even the traces of development reach. We feel blessed to be part of their lives, helping them in simple and little ways. We believe that, however insignificant the results of our efforts today be, it will certainly pave the way for a better and brighter future for these, our people.
Along with all the people of our village, we too do pray, “Our father who art in heaven have mercy on your children, may your kingdom come. May your will be done. Give us here in Raipanka a small house of our own. Give us this request as we are giving You to the people. Do not leave us orphaned for a long time. But have mercy and give us a home. Amen”.
Health awareness program
"We are grateful to our sisters in the province for supporting us and accompanying us. We are grateful to Almighty God for protecting us under the shelter of His wings."
Theresa Pappu, Rose Anitha, Chinnabatthini Arogya Mary, fmm