For Mumbai NGO, healing Mother Earth heals addicts
Since 1981, the Kripa Foundation treats people with AIDS and drug addicts. After Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ was released, it undertook a home garden project in Goa. Organic crops stem climate change, and help addicts learn to see God’s will, which is fulfilled in creation.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Kripa Foundation is a Mumbai-based NGO that rehabilitates people living with AIDS and drug addictions. It does so by caring for Mother Earth the way patients treat their own drug addiction in order that caring for the environment can trigger a healing process that embraces the whole life of patients.
To mark its creation 36 years ago, the foundation has turned to farming and forestry. AsiaNews spoke to its founder, Fr Joe Pereira, who said that the idea of the initiative came from Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’, "which calls on everyone to consume responsibly the resources of the planet."
"What better way to celebrate our anniversary than a plan that matches the vision of His Holiness?” Fr Pereira said. “This is why the foundation has developed a project in favour of the life of the land, implemented by those who suffer because of their dependencies."
The idea of creating a "home garden" formed here in Goa last year. After choosing the land – an arid and abandoned lot of 2,400 square metres – it was watered and seeded. Now it grows three crops and meets the needs of the foundation and the local community with a number of lush plants, medicinal herbs and fruit trees.
In the future, the priest noted, "the garden will include poultry (chickens and ducks), aquaculture and bee keeping. Our potential expansion is limited only by our knowledge and imagination."
For Fr Pereira, who is 75 and celebrates 50 years of his priestly ordination this year, the focal point of the home garden project "is the rehabilitation of the sick and a therapy that keeps them busy.”
“Rehabilitating patients depends a lot on what they eat and on a peaceful environment. Pushing drug addicts to take care of the earth can enable them to reflect and pursue the same healing process in their own lives."
The Kripa (grace in Sanskrit) Foundation was set up in 1981 in Bandra, a district in Mumbai. Today it has 69 facilities in 12 Indian states, working with other associations in Europe, Canada and the United States.
In 2009 Fr Pereira received the Padma Shri Award from the Government of India, the fourth highest Indian award, for his contribution to the treatment of drug addiction and HIV.
"The philosophy that guides the association reflects the spirit of service and dedication found in the work of Mother Teresa, who blessed our centres in Calcutta (Kolkata) and Vasai,” the clergyman said.
"In light of Pope Francis's teachings on the environment, it is necessary to bring forward the twin processes. Drug addicts must learn to observe and care for plants, from sowing to the joyful moment when they serve organic and healthy food for dinner. At the same time, the garden can become the expression of personal skills in which patients and members of the community can implement theoretical notions. "
According to the priest, the value of the initiative is twofold: on the one hand, it benefits the sick; on the other hand, it counteracts the adverse effects of climate change.
"In Goa, water shortages are an ongoing problem,” he said, “and small farmers are threatened by large firms using GMOs.” However, “Organic and sustainable agriculture can help counteract climate change. Not only that!. Dealing with the earth is a way to overcome the 'me-you' dualism of drug addicts. The latter feel alone and become dependent on a number of love substitutes, like drugs, sex, or pornography, which gives them the feeling of filling a void.”
"With our project, rehabilitation occurs through the earth’s resources,” Fr Pereira noted. “Addicts learn to see God’s will fulfilled in creation, and then learn the spirituality of Creation.”
“In the end, taking care of the earth in a loving way translates into an effective rehabilitation for the climate and vice versa. By growing plants and trees, addicts learn inner growth and self-realisation from nature and turn self-destructive energy into a fulfilling life full of creativity and meaning."