Door to Hope

June 01 2023 | by

“NOTHING will ever change. In India if you are born poor you will stay poor. Today your parents are poor, and tomorrow your children will be poor too,” Alisha’s dad tells her. But that does not stop this dark-eyed little girl from getting up early, putting on her uniform, knotting her blue and white tie all by herself, and heading off to her school, Saint Mary’s. Alisha eyes may be dark, but they sparkle – none more so than when she is sitting at her school desk in the front row. She raises her hand, answers the teachers’ questions and invariably has a question for the teachers, too.

Alisha’s dad may have learned harsh lessons from life, but that has not stopped him from wanting to give his little girl hope and an opportunity in her life. He breaks his back in the fields during the week, and every Saturday cuts the grass and tidies up the courtyard of Saint Mary’s school. In this corner of India many of the population are illiterate and poor. They work in the fields and pray constantly that the monsoons will not destroy their crops. In the end, deep down Alisha’s dad believes that school will help change her future and that of other children in the area, too.


A Catholic school


Saint Mary’s School is situated in the diocese of Diphu in Daldali, Assam, in northeast India, close to the border with Bhutan. In March 2020, when the school was placed under the management of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, the school population numbered 260 pupils, who came from the villages in the diocese. Each year the number of pupils has been growing as the school has also grown to accommodate progressively more grades. Right now, the school is ready to be upgraded to include the 8th grade, and will need to increase its capacity to 350 pupils.

The present building’s walls are made of bamboo and its roof from tin sheets. It is pretty fragile. Rain, wind, or more dangerously a violent monsoon, could bring it down at any time, and there is much concern for the safety of the children, both from parents and from the friars who run the school. “The buildings lack even basic facilities to run a school well, and the weather conditions can go from extreme cold to hot with heavy rain and wind,” says Friar Sajesh Kottuppallil. “But we continue to hold lessons in these rooms.” The school also now needs to be registered with the Education Board of the Assam Government. For the safety of the kids and to meet the requirements for registration, too, a proper, safe building is required.


Remote location


Friar Sajesh, together with Friar Shinto Venkuzhiyil, were appointed to look after the school and the pastoral needs of the people of Daldali. They have no house to stay in and so currently lodge with the local parish priest 10 kilometres away from the Daldali mission centre. This means they travel a minimum of 20 kilometres each day administering to the pastoral needs of the area while also teaching at the school together with the nine other teachers, actively participating in extracurricular school life. It is a remote location and the muddy roads add to their difficulties, especially in the rainy season.

The two friars drew up plans for a new school that will be a two-storey construction built from bricks. There will also be bathroom facilities for boys and girls, a kindergarten, and accommodation for teachers who live far from the school.


€530,000  needed


The Order of Friars Minor Conventual of India and of Malta will oversee the construction works, which will have an overall cost of €530,000. The Maltese friars have directly contributed €50,000 to the cost of the new buildings. Our charitable organization, St. Anthony’s Charities, has agreed to support the construction of the school complex, and is convinced that it will change the lives of the children of Diphu. Education opens the door to hope.

Pope Francis tells us that “We cannot wait for the poor to knock on our door.” Instead we must follow Saint Anthony’s example and never miss an opportunity to come to their aid. Will you help transform Saint Mary’s into a beacon of hope and learning that will lift up the entire community for generations to come? A place where people of different religions will learn to collaborate for the good of their children and to give them hope for the future?


Their future


“Gospel and Charity are our motto; they are at the heart of our magazine,” concludes Father Giancarlo Zamengo, General Director of the Messenger of Saint Anthony. “On this 13th June we can give a beautiful gift to the children of Diphu and build this new school for them together. For the children of the villages in the diocese of Diphu, school is everything: it is their hope, their opportunity, their future. Your donation will bring a smile to the face of little Alisha and many children like her. Alisha and her companions will be able to have a more dignified life, made up of small opportunities that are quite normal for us, but which for them, today, are just a dream. Our heartfelt thanks and may Saint Anthony bless you always!”

Updated on June 01 2023