Bangalore Cares for Nepal: a year and a half of actual help to lepers and quake victims (photos)

An Indian priest, Fr George Kannanthanam, is behind the initiative. He left for Nepal the day after the earthquake. At first he used his own money, then found partner organisations and volunteers. After a month, he had reached 24,000 people. Later he provided temporary housing for 450 families and built homes for the 50 families of a leprosy colony.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Fr George Kannanthanam is an Indian priest from Bangalore (Karnataka). He talked to AsiaNews about his involvement in the earthquake that struck Nepal on 25 April 2015.

Speaking about this huge human tragedy, he noted “Our impact is difficult to measure!” The fact that we could be present with the people in this moment of tragedy to share their pain is the most important impact. It was worth the challenge we took.”

The day after the earthquake, he left with another priest for the Himalayan country, to see with his own eyes the work that needed to be done and figure out how best to do it.

He began with his own money. Within a few days, he set up ‘Bangalore Cares for Nepal’, a NGO to provide humanitarian aid as an immediate response to the emergency.

Speaking to AsiaNews, he said, “We made a decision to reach to the people not reached by other groups - places beyond Kathmandu city,” including a leper colony.

The 7.8 earthquake that hit Nepal in April 2015 killed more than 8,500 people, and injured an additional 20,000. Some 800,000 buildings collapsed or sustained damage, including thousands of schools.

A month after the tragedy, Fr George’s organisation had reached some 24,000 people.

“With limited resources and vast needs around us, we had to make choices regarding our work. We decided to spend our resources for the poorest of the poor. We decided to focus on the areas outside the city, where help had not reached.”

In two weeks, Bangalore Cares for Nepal was already up and running, delivering 100 shelter boxes, each with 51 items like tarpaulins, buckets, clothes, toilet articles, food and basic crockery.

In the following days, volunteers from India handed out 2,750 tarpaulins sheltering 10,000 people.

The Catholic group built homes for 450 families using the temporary housing design developed by the Yongdaan Foundation.

In one village everyone “was involved in its construction and learned all about the process and the skills involved,” Fr George noted. “Once they approved the model house and its design, they participated in the construction activities themselves. By doing this, it gave the community a sense of ownership who saw it as a collaborative activity.”

After this, Bangalore cares moved to the village of Budaneelkanta, a leper colony, which had not been reached.

“Within a week of our intervention, all 50 families residing in this village had homes, probably one of the first villages to have all houses made. The last became the first.”

After putting roofs on people’s heads, the NGO took action to give a future to the children. It provided 850 new school bags.

It also identified 13 students, who had completed grade 12, for a one-year programme at the Hotel Management School in Bangalore. This was followed by a three-month practical course at a five-star hotel.

Another student, a young woman, is studying to be a nurse with the Holy Cross Sisters.

With the help of Proclade, a Spanish association that provided € 55,000 (US$ 59,000), the Catholic NGO is building a school in the village of Madhurapatty, about 80 km from the capital. It has 160 learners, some of whom will have to travel ten kilometres to attend class.

The Indian NGO also built a community hall, a library, and a science lab in the same village. “Our rehabilitation efforts are expected to be completed by the end of 2017,” Fr George said.

The force that inspires and supports him is Jesus. "I am a Catholic. I believe that we must be present as followers of Jesus in any place and among any group where people are suffering. This is what Jesus did, and our calling as his followers is the same.”

“If we don't respond to situations of human suffering, especially like natural calamities, for me the very purpose of being a religious is not fulfilled.” (NC)