Helping Orphans

May 14 2017 | by

AYESHA, a 17 year old, is in the 10th grade at St. Catherine Girls’ High School, Warispura, Pakistan. “I lost my mother, and my father brought me to St. Catherine’s Orphanage, where the Dominican Sisters are taking care of me,” she explains. “They work very hard in the field of education, and I am lucky to be part of this institution. When I first came here, the building was beautiful and there were facilities for all the students, but as the years passed, the building needed to be renovated. It needed painting, and the furniture – desks, chairs, dining tables and benches – was all in bad condition.”

St. Catherine’s Orphanage is situated in Warispura, a large Christian colony five kilometres outside the city of Faisalabad. It has a mixture of both urban and rural communities. Many of the inhabitants are flood victims from the surrounding areas, and some have migrated from villages in search of work. Pakistan is an Islamic country where 98 percent of the people are Muslim, and only 1.5 percent are Christian. The total population of Warispura is around 25,000, of which almost 15,000 are Catholics – the majority live in poverty and cannot afford the basic necessities of life. “There is a lot of unemployment and poverty in the area,” says Sister Magdaline Yousaf, Mother Superior of the Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena. “There are some small scale businesses, but many work as pickers or in hotels or garages, some as sex workers or coolies for very low wages. There are no incentives or facilities, and as a result many turn to criminal activities or begging. Some migrate in search of employment. These factors affect their children, with school drop outs the result. Children often end up working with their parents or are employed in brick making, agriculture and domestic work to earn bread for the family.”


Christian presence


The Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena have been serving in Pakistan since 1934, when six Italian Sisters settled in Faisalabad at the invitation of the first bishop of Faisalabad. The Sisters started their pastoral work, education and health care centres gradually, aiming to help the poor, the rejected, and minorities through education, healing ministry, and spiritual and pastoral training of the Christian communities. Many spiritual and social economic programmes, including support for orphans, have developed from these humble beginnings.

The orphanage is home to 70 girls between the ages of 11 and 18. The girls attend primary, middle or high school at St. Catherine’s Girls’ High School, which is also run by the Sisters. “Six Sisters work in the school, along with 19 external teachers,” says Sr. Magdaline. “Two Sisters take care of the orphans and live with them while providing guidance and help with their education and studies.” In addition to attending the school, the girls also receive further teaching and tutorials from the Sisters and teachers: “The Sisters instruct the girls in good citizenship and engage them in discussions and training on ethics and morality to strengthen their character and spirituality.” The costs of accommodation, education fees, health care and other expenses are shared by the Sisters and the relatives of the children. The kitchen is staffed by two cooks who prepare food for the girls, often using food grown in the large vegetable garden, which not only compliments the daily diet, but also generates some income for the orphanage. During recreation time, the girls produce handicrafts which are sold at various fairs held at schools in the area, and this also helps to supplement orphanage funds.


Uninhabitable spaces


“St. Catherine’s Orphanage was in very poor condition,” explains Sr. Magdaline. “It was in urgent need of repairs. The two storey house, built nearly 50 years ago, had deteriorated significantly due to lack of money and poor maintenance. There were also some structural deficiencies: toilets were broken, the roof was leaking, some ceilings had collapsed and the walls were decaying. We were afraid that it may collapse on the resident’s heads.” Additionally, leaky water pipes rendered the water unsafe to drink, waste disposal was ineffective, and there was a lack of hot water for washing. These factors contributed to the spread of infectious diseases and respiratory infections. “The damp, cold and mouldy interior caused anxiety and depression,” continues Sr. Magdaline. “Structural defects also permitted entry to cockroaches and rodents, allergies which are triggers for asthma. The orphanage needed urgent refurbishment and renovation to be safe for habitation.”

“The renovation of the building will provide the children with a decent and safe place to live and a better environment for learning and studying,” says Sr. Magdaline, “but in order to carry out the renovation we needed money which we did not have. For this reason, we needed financial support. We asked St. Anthony’s Charities for a helping hand to assist us in renovating the orphanage in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.”


Neat and tidy


The Sisters wish is that, in renovating the building, not only will there be an improvement in studying and living conditions, but that an atmosphere will be generated which enables the girls to become self dependent so that they can contribute to the development of the area and be active participants in the development effort of the nation. They also believe it will assist in reducing school drop-outs and child labour, while encouraging girls to go back to school through giving both psychological and physical training. A request was made for €20,000 and approved in February 2016.

The renovation works included: the repair of 16 toilets and 4 showers, renovation of all the rooms, the roof, wooden doors and windows, sewage disposal system, plumbing and electrical system, repair of water tanks, and painting of both the interior and exterior. The project was completed on time and with no difficulties on 10th January 2017. “The girls of the orphanage are very happy because change can be seen everywhere,” says Sr. Magdaline. “Life has become more regulated and the environment is very neat and tidy.”


Grateful girls


Girls at the orphanage confirm this: “All the bedrooms and beds have been repaired, the electric and plumbing work has been completed, and the ceilings replaced,” says Mariam, a 14-year-old 9th grader who lost her mother 7 years ago. “Here, the Dominican Sisters are taking care of me and are looking after my spiritual, physiological and moral needs. I am very happy here and doing well in my studies. I am very grateful to you for all the help you have given to this institution. May your generosity be blessed by the Lord. Whenever I pray, I remember you in my prayers.”

“When I came back to the orphanage after my summer vacations, there were many changes,” concludes Ayesha. “The building has been painted, the furniture has been repaired, and 16 new toilets have been built. It provides us with a very healthy atmosphere where we can all study well. I am very grateful to St. Anthony’s Charities and the readers of the Messenger of Saint Anthony for providing everything generously. May God bless you abundantly. You are always in our prayers. May God reward you for this generous gesture.”

Updated on May 14 2017