03/21/2020, 08.00
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Bandra school closes because of coronavirus, but orphanage remains open

by Nirmala Carvalho

The St Catherine of Siena facility is home to 75 poor children without parents, aged 5 to 18. Because of the outbreak, a skeleton staff of three cares for them. A mobile medical clinic visits every week.  The children enjoy a plant-based diet, games and study.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The St Catherine of Siena School and Orphanage, a key place for poor and abandoned children in Bandra (Mumbai), has temporarily closed the school because of the coronavirus outbreak. The orphanage has instead remained open, albeit with reduced staff, the facility’s director, Brother Joseph told AsiaNews. All this was done “to prevent the spread of the pandemic.”

The number of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in India reached 195 today. For experts, this number is too small in a population of almost 1.3 billion people, largely because of not enough testing and perceived low risk. Still, Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday announced a one-day curfew nationwide to limit the spread of the virus.

The St Catherine of Siena School for Destitute Children in Mumbai is part of the Welfare Society for Destitute Children, founded by the Dominican Fr Anthony Elenjimittam in 1957. This was followed by the creation of the Aquinas Industrial School, also in Mumbai, and the SatCitAnanda Mission in Assisi. The society’s purpose is to rescue marginalised children and educate them in order to create an ideal "cosmopolis" based on a vision of fraternal humanity and unity.

Brother Joseph noted that the school has more than 250 pupils this year, whilst the orphanage has 75 children aged 5 to 18.

“The school was closed and the administrative work was halted. A skeleton staff of three is taking care of the children, poor and orphans, keeping them safe. We wash our hands, talk about the virus, pray for the world, and the mothers who live in the streets.”

Everyone who comes to the orphanage “is seen by doctors year-round, every week. A mobile clinic comes every Thursday for check-ups. There is also a non-Christian doctor, Dr Prakash Jain, who provides emergency treatment free of charge.”

The children “follow a healthy plant-based diet, play games inside and outside in the evening, and study. Orphans are blessed children.”

“Usually some benefactors come to celebrate some important anniversaries with us, like a birthday, and offer lunch and dinner to our children,” said Brother Joseph. Such people of good will “are all welcome. Given the current emergency, we will continue to provide updated information with photos and videos via social media, so that they need not come to our centre.”

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