Pics by Savitha B R
Feb 13, 2011
One of the deepest and most cherished needs of life is the need to be loved, cared and appreciated for what you are. Kindness, appreciation and recognition of worth both in deeds and words makes a crucial difference to the lives of the poor, the sick, the destitute and the needy. In today’s world where there is no dearth for money or material wealth but where humanity is approaching crossroads, the nuns of Olavina Halli (village of love) have filled the vacuum in the lives of hundreds of burnout leprosy patients, destitute and the marginalized sections of the society, by their unconditional and selfless service. Needless to say it has been rightly named as “Olavina Halli – An Abode of Happiness, Peace and Love”. The institute set up by an Italian nun late Sr Amelia Cimolino, is working with the motto of ‘transforming the neglected, unwanted and marginalized sections of the society by means of love, care and selfless service and helping them lead a life of dignity”.
Olavina Halli is situated at about 18 kms from Mangalore city and just about 2 ½ Kms from N H 17 at Kinya Cross Road, Talapady, in a vast expanse of 16 acres of beautiful lush green surroundings. On entering the premises one is greeted with a whip of a fresh air and the smiling faces of the nuns (Sisters of Charity) who serve the inmates of the institute. If this is the first impression one gets, there is more in stores as one goes around the four different centers within the premises and the chapel and the home that houses the 11 nuns who are young and energetic in their approach to life and work, if not age-wise. The youngest nun working here is 56 years old and the oldest is 89 and the remaining 9 are above 60 and below 89. Another interesting aspect is that all these nuns are retired teachers.
Usually people need the help and support of others to take care of themselves at this age. But these nuns find meaning to life and happiness in rendering a helping hand to the inmates to help them cope with the challenges posed by life.
Sr Sylvesterine Lobo, Administrator of this institute says “Sr Amelia started this home with the main objective of rehabilitating the burnout leprosy and T B patients and also to reach out to the most needy, the destitute and the neglected sections of the society. In our efforts we are guided by the ideals and vision of our founder who dedicated her entire life in the service of humanity”. True to the motto, the institute has been an abode for the marginalized sections of the society to call it a ‘home’ of their own. The home caters not only to their food, clothing, shelter and health needs but also provides for the emotional security and comfort, which has become a scarce commodity in today’s world.
From Italy with Love
Sr Amelia Cimolino, an Italian missionary came to India in 1972 at the age of 63, armed with a rich experience of working for more 37 years in Myanmar (formerly Burma) amidst leprosy patients. After the military regime expelled her from Burma she went back to Italy to recuperate from the illness she encountered during her stay in the forest in Burma. Sisters of Charity have their presence worldwide and she had chosen Burma to render her services. On her recovery Sr Amelia decided to come to India and showed inclination to continue working for the rehabilitation of leprosy patients and thus “Olavina Halli” was born and started functioning from 1974. Sr Amelia set up the institute through donations and funds collected from her friends and benefactors from Italy. She picked up the lepers who were found on the streets of Mangalore and help them build their tattered lives at Olavina Halli.
The journey of serving the helpless and the needy that began 36 years ago continues unabated even to this with the same enthusiasm and ardor that Olavina Halli is known for all these years. Sr Irine D Souza, one of the members of the community working here says “we try to instill a spirit of living in dignity by reconstructing true human relationships among those suffering from leprosy and other diseases or those who are abandoned by their families”.
At present there are four centres at Olavina Halli namely Amelia Nivas, Shanti Sadan, Neeti Nivas and Prem Nilaya, to house inmates apart from the house of nuns and the chapel. Now a small shrine has been built for the patron “Infant Jesus”. Amelia Nivas is named after the founder Amelia Cimolino, who passed away in 2006 at the age of 94. It houses about 24 inmates (ladies) who are mentally challenged. It also has a centre for treating and caring for AIDS patients. Some AIDS patients come here for treatment and return once they get well. “Shanti Sadan” houses about 20 to 25 senior ladies who are bed ridden and need constant care including providing food and maintaining cleanliness. “Neeti Nivas” houses junior ladies (ladies who are above 70) that include destitute, mentally challenged and T B patients. “Prem Nilaya” houses nearly 35 to 40 inmates, majority of them leprosy burnout patients. Others include def and dumb, blind and physically challenged.
All the centers have patients belonging to different race, language and religion, which goes to prove that ultimately it is the ‘human being’ that matters. There is also Amelia Museum that has some of the treasured belongings of late Sr Amelio, including the cot and bed she used. “We get patients through social workers, some associations and through parish priests. The house is full most of the time and we do not send back patients unless we are unable to accommodate them in any of the centers”, recounts Sr Sylvestorine. Taking care of so many inmates is not an easy task as most of the inmates are unable to take care of themselves. There are four caretakers, one each in the four centers to take care of the patients, including washing clothes and maintaining hygiene.
There are two cooks and one of them Andrew has renders 29 years of service at Olavina Halli. The inmates who are mobile help the helpers in cooking, as well as in maintaining the garden or in growing vegetables etc., apart from taking care of themselves. There is also one nursing aid apart from a visiting doctor to attend to sick patients. “Convalescing leprosy patients need special care and time because cleaning and dressing the wounds is a must without which the wounds become unmanageable. Such patients cannot work outside in the garden as even a slight hurt may result in bigger wounds”, says Sr Sylvestorine. Everything from food, clothing, shelter, medicine are taken care free of cost at the institute.
Though most of the patients are bedridden, sick, wounded, deaf, blind or mentally challenged, it is gratifying to note that the place is crystal clean and well maintained. The inmates too are neat, tidy and well groomed and their faces glow with inner peace and happiness. When these nuns approach, touch and talk and ask their well being they seem to be most happy and respond with alacrity.
The biggest challenge the institutions faces these days is the rising pharmacy bills of the patients. “When they are sick and need hospitalization they are taken to the Yenepoya Hospital at Derlakatte where they are treated free of cost. But it is the pharmacy bills which form a large part of the medical expenses of the inmates”, Sr Irine says. However, it has not deterred the nuns from providing good medical care for the inmates when the situation calls for.
Efforts to Self Sustain
In an effort to self sustain plantation work has been undertaken by planting rubber trees and by growing coconut, pepper, banana and some vegetables also. They are also rearing cows and the milk is used for domestic purpose. There is another plot of about 16 acres, a bit farther from Kinya cross road, where rubber plantation is done. On an average 20 people work in the cultivation in both the plots as well in taking care of the cows. Most of the workers are from the rehabilitated families, children of the inmates, who have been given a helping hand by the nuns to rebuild their tattered lives, by providing a house in and around Olavina Halli. The sisters also run a nursery school to cater to the children of the locality, most of whom belong to the rehabilitated families settled nearby.
The sisters have provided them with land and built houses in the close vicinity. Gobar gas is used for cooking and heating purposes..
Most of the patients are poor and their families are not able to take care of them. Among the inmates there are a few whose children have mercilessly thrown their parents on the streets. Some relatives of destitute refuse to come and visit the patients, leave alone helping monetary wise. Taking care of food, clothing, shelter and health is the biggest challenge faced by the nuns these days. Till Sr Amelio was there her family, relatives friends and acquaintances use to send aid to Olavina Halli. But with her death in 2006 and with the death of one of the benefactors from Italy in 2010, aid from Italy has completely stopped.
Olavina Halli is in need of financial assistance to continue the selfless service they have been carrying out for the last 36 years. The institute lacks some important facilities like a multipurpose stage, plastic chairs to enable inmates to be seated outdoors, makeshift roof (instead of shamiana) , a mobile computer and other minor requirements.
Help in cash or kind is accepted in the form sponsorship for a meal a month, snacks,/tea/coffee or sharing the joy with the inmates with cash or kind to mark wedding, birthday, holy mass, jubilee/ anniversary celebrations or any other kind of happy occasions.
N B: Indian donors are entitled for income tax exemption on the amount given to the institution under section 80 G of the Income Tax Act, 1961.
Rehabilitation and Community Development Centre
Mangalore – 575 023