06/09/2017, 17.08
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Rajshahi: Catholic Sisters give new hope to disabled children, including Muslim and Hindu children

by Sumon Corraya

The Snehanir Rehabilitation Centre opened in 1992. It is run by the Santi Rani Sisters, with financial support from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. Aysha, a Muslim girl disfigured by her father, Flora, a Catholic girl in a wheelchair, and Sajib, Hindu boy without hearing, tell their stories.

Rajshahi (AsiaNews) – Snehanir, or House of Tenderness, is a rehabilitation centre for disabled children and kids. Its patients include a Muslim girl disfigured with acid by her father, a hearing-impaired Hindu boy, and a Catholic girl in a wheelchair.

The facility, which is located in Baganpara, Rajshahi town, opened its doors 25 years ago thanks to the Santi Rani Sisters (CIC), a diocesan congregation founded by the missionaries of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).

The house takes care, educates and supports Christian, Muslim, and Hindu children, giving them hope in a new life and a better future.

Since 1992, when it was founded, the facility has taken children and young people of every confession. Today they are 42. During the years, they have completed their education and found work, making the most of the skills they acquired.

One of the Snehanir kids is Flora Murmu, a young Catholic woman who spent 12 years at the house. She cannot walk and needs a wheelchair.

She says that her father was desperate over her disability and would always said, "Why did I get a disabled child?" He thought "I was a burden to the family. My relatives were not happy because I was disabled. But the centre has transformed my life."

After her studies, she found work with Caritas Bangladesh. "First, I was a burden, but now,” she says with glee, “I am helping my family, giving them 5,000 takas a month” (US$ 62).

Sajib’s story is similar. Born with a hearing impediment into a Hindu family, he was a source of anguish for his father Biplob Lakra, and his mother.

"We did not have the money to maintain him,” the father said. “Then one day I found out about Snehanir from a Caritas official and I enrolled my son. Now he is learning the sign language. We too are following the lessons so that we can communicate with my poor child."

Aysha Akter’s story is just one of many involving violence against women. A teenager now, the Muslim girl was just two years old when her father threw acid on her face because his wife refused to give him money.  This left her forever scarred.

At the House of Tenderness, she is taking classes. “But I'm also taking lessons in morals, what I should do and what I should not do." Today, she believes she can "have a bright future" and wants to work with the victims of acid attacks.

The house is run by nuns with the support of Fr Franco Cagnasso, former PIME superior in Bangladesh, who covers the costs for the children’s education and victuals.

"Our approach is to welcome children with various disabilities, but also without disabilities,” he told AsiaNews. “They live together, help each other and do not feel excluded from society.”

“Our goal,” he added, “is to make them self-reliant so that in the future they can play a relevant role in society."

Former students "maintain good relations with the centre,” Fr Cagnasso noted. “They inspire young people and minors to have confidence in themselves."

Sr Dipica Palma, who runs the centre, expressed a heartfelt thank you for PIME fathers. “Without their support, we would never have been able to keep the centre going and make a positive contribution to the future of these children."

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