Fr Kannanthanam, activist for lepers, earthquake victims and blind people, receives award for excellence in social work
by Nirmala Carvalho

The priest donated the award money to a disabled man to build his home. The religious works with lepers, AIDS patients, disabled people, prisoners, drugs addicts, alcoholics, and people with vision problems. He set up an association to help Nepal earthquake victims. His Project Vision campaign has garnered thousands of endorsements worldwide.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) in India have given Fr George Kannanthanam the Fr Jose Alex Award for excellence in social work. The ceremony for the biennial award was held at Rajagiri College of Social Science last Friday.

Kannanthanam, a well-known social activist in India and abroad, was rewarded for his 30 years of service for the “empowerment of people in the peripheries".

Carmelite Provincial Fr Jose Kuriedath presented the award during the National Conference on Migration and Social Inclusion at the Rajagiri College of Social Science. The award comes with a prize of 100,000 rupees (US$ 1,410), a memento and a certificate.

Fr Kannanthanam plans to donate the money to Mr Rajesh, a paralysed man from Calicut, to help him complete the construction of his home. In fact, housing is one of the dozens of initiatives attributable to the Claretian priest.

Originally from Kerala, Fr Kannanthanam has lived in Bangalore, Karnataka for years, where he founded a series of organisations to help the poorest in Indian society and communities abroad affected by natural disasters.

His social commitment has taken him to Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Nepal. In the latter, he was among the first to bring relief to earthquake victims in 2015. The associations he founded are active in Sri Lanka, Philippines, China and the United States.

Fr George works with lepers, AIDS patients, disabled people, prisoners, drug addicts, alcoholics, as well as visually-impaired people.

He began working with the poor and marginalised in 1988, when he was still a seminarian. In that year he founded the Hope Society for the treatment of alcoholics and drug addicts.

He spent the next 12 years in Sumanahalli (Bangalore) living with lepers at a centre he opened. Meanwhile, in 1992 he was ordained into the priesthood and started support centres in Bangalore and Belgaum for people with HIV.

In 2004 he worked in seven villages in Tamil Nadu affected by the tsunami helping relief and rehabilitation groups. He managed relief operations during the floods in Karnataka in 2009 and in Kerala in 2018-2019.

In 2015 he set up Bangalore Cares for Nepal, an association that brought aid and relief to the people affected by the earthquake in that country. In 2013 he created Project Vision, a programme for the rehabilitation of blind people and organ donation.

Thousands of people around the world joined his Project Vision campaign and this year the first clinic for the treatment of the blind was set up.