After the Floods, Help for Kerala Victims
This past August, the worst monsoon season in nearly a century devastated India’s southern state of Kerala. The unrelenting rains triggered catastrophic flooding and mudslides that killed more than 400 people, and forced more than 600,000 men, women and children from their homes. Immediately — and despite significant damage to their own structures — Salesian missionaries, lay staff, youth groups and volunteers from 14 communities throughout the region mobilized to assist tens of thousands of victims.
“People literally lost everything: their homes, farmland, livestock, and their ability to make a living,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “At the same time, as many as 52,000 miles of road, and other critical infrastructure such as electricity and communications systems, were destroyed. This made it very difficult for outside agencies to reach those who needed help the most.”
Because they already work and live in some of the hardest-hit communities, our missionaries were well-poised to respond, spearheading relief efforts commended by victims and government officials alike.
“Salesians of the Bangalore Province bonded in heart and soul with the victims of the flood, and welcomed them into their homes wholeheartedly,” says Father George P.S., provincial economer. Together with Father Joy Nedumparambil, executive director of the Bangalore Rural Educational and Development Society (BREADS), Fr. George has been coordinating the Salesians’ state-wide humanitarian relief efforts — as well as what promises to be an extensive period of recovery and reconstruction.
During Phase One of the emergency response, these efforts included delivering food, clean water, medicine, dry bedding, clothing and other essential items. In one instance, Father Joby Sebastian, director of Don Bosco Kollam’s Fisherman Community Development Program, even traveled to severely flooded areas by boat. With the help of local fishermen, he rescued children and families stranded in their homes, and ferried them to nearby relief camps, many of which are being run by his fellow Salesians. In total, our missionaries housed more than 40,000 people in 91 of these camps.
“The relief camps were well managed by Salesian missionaries and volunteers,” says Fr. George. “This was mentioned by government officials who visited. In every sense, [the camps] were far better than those organized in the government-run institutions. All had decent places for people to sleep, and separate bathrooms for men and women. Special arrangements were made for the elderly and nutritious food was provided in a timely manner. This eased [the victims’] anxiety and helped prepare them to cope with the situation outside.”
Now, the long and difficult work of rebuilding homes, lives and futures begins. Thanks to the #RebuildKerala campaign, BREADS has engaged hundreds of students and staff of Salesian institutions. They mobilized to clean victims’ homes and provide basic household items needed to resume daily living: plates, glassware, utensils, small cooking stoves, mattresses and more. So far, these volunteers have cleaned nearly 400 houses and provided 265 families with home essentials. But the need is far greater.
“In addition to continuing the cleanup, we have identified 2,000 poor families for whom we would like to provide household items, because they do not have the money to buy them again,” says Fr. George. “And, we have decided to help provide monetary compensation to 200 farmers and their families who lost their primary means of making a living — their land, crops and livestock.”
Looking ahead, missionaries intend to lead long-term, sustainable rehabilitation and reconstruction projects, including home repair and sanitation system engineering, an effort Fr. George estimates will require nearly $7 million. Despite this significant price tag, our missionaries and committed volunteers remain steadfast.
“These upcoming stages of the post-disaster recovery process are tougher than the relief work,” he says. “But we are organizing ourselves and hope to carry out services that will leave a lasting impact on the lives of the people.”
To support our missionaries’ work on behalf of the Kerala flood victims, you may make a donation below.
Our mission helps provide immediate humanitarian aid and ongoing assistance for the innocent victims of disaster: rebuilding lives, livelihoods and hope. What’s your mission?