Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: January 09, 2024

Shining a Beacon of Hope

It hit below the fold—news of cyclone Michaung was hidden among reports of endless wars, natural disasters and other catastrophes around the world. But for thousands of people in India and our Salesian missionaries serving in the region, the storm’s immediate impact and devastating aftermath remain headline news.

Roaring toward Chennai at the beginning of December, Michaung pummeled the coast with high winds and torrential rains, inundating low-lying areas and displacing more than 40,000 people who were cut off from essential services and supplies. Swept away by raging waters, dozens of residents lost their lives—including 19-year-old Santhosh, who lived and worked among the Salesian community there.

Despite this tragedy, and undeterred by the dire threat to their own lives, Salesian missionaries immediately launched an emergency response.

“As is so often the case, our missionaries are well-positioned to lead during times of crisis,” explains Father Michael Conway, director of Salesian Missions. “They live where they work, among the people they serve—so they know exactly what’s happening and exactly what needs to be done.”

Nowhere was this more important than in the northern part of Chennai, where relentless rainfall rapidly exceeded amounts not seen in 47 years—and challenged the capacity of local authorities to respond. Together in solidarity, missionaries, students and staff across five Salesian centers in Chennai mobilized to address pressing needs.

One team rescued 150 students and teachers who were marooned by the floodwaters, relocating them to safety in other Salesian houses. Operating under challenging and risky conditions, this team also prepared and delivered hot meals and safe drinking water to more than 1,500 stranded residents. And the local Salesian development office, known as SURABI, took charge of broader relief and rehabilitation efforts, providing crucial material and financial assistance for 3,000 flood-affected families.

“I witnessed firsthand the sacrificing and daring spirit of our Salesians and young volunteers who risked their lives to rescue people in crisis,” reports Father John Alexander, who coordinated the Salesian province’s emergency and relief efforts. “They worked day and night to supply food to areas surrounded by neck-deep water. The resilience and generosity of people in these critical conditions are truly amazing.”

And the generosity didn’t stop there.

Recognizing the urgent need for medical assistance, the Past Pupil Association of Don Bosco School at Egmore organized free medical camps in four flood-affected communities. These camps provided general health check-ups, consultations with doctors, vital medicine, and most of all, an essential lifeline for those grappling with health issues in the aftermath of the disaster.

Currently, with support from SURABI, our missionaries have also begun community reconstruction and rehabilitation projects.

“Despite the grim circumstances and the profound challenges posed by Michaung, the Salesian community’s response stands as a testament to the strength of human spirit and the unwavering commitment to restoring hope in the face of adversity,” says another missionary on the ground.

“We know from experience that rebuilding lives and livelihoods takes time, patience and dedication,” Fr. Mike says. “But my Salesian colleagues in Chennai already report a remarkable resilience among the people.”

Learn more about our work in India.

Our mission provides immediate relief and humanitarian assistance in times of disaster—helping to rebuild lives and restore hope. What’s your mission?

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