Trócaire Lenten Campaign 2013
Reflection by Fr Padraig Shelley, Trócaire Diocesan Rep for Kildare & Leighlin Diocese, after his recent visit to the community of Jhilligoan in India which is the focus of this year’s Lenten campaign.
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Pope Benedict speaks very beautifully about our faith in his Lenten Letter for 2013. He reminds us that -[quote]being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction … Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us” (Deus Caritas Est, 1). [/quote]
For the past 40 years Trócaire has been responding to God‘s great love by being instruments of solidarity and justice in the developing world. Many people’s lives are better today because of the efforts of Trócaire. And this wonderful life-giving work could not happen without the kind and generous response of the Irish people. Each year the money received goes to support the world of Trócaire throughout the world, and plays a major part in ensuring that this good work continues.
A few short weeks ago I had the opportunity to travel to India to see this good work first hand. I visited the community that will be the focus for this year’s Lenten campaign. The little girl that appears on your Trócaire box lives in a tiny community called Jhilligoan, a small and very remote village in the Koraput region of South Odisha. Her name is Ambika Paraja. She is nine years of age and she has one brother and one sister.
The region where Ambika and her family live is one of the poorest states in India. In fact, if Odisha were a country in its own right it would rank as one of the poorest ten countries in the world. And yet, it has great natural resources, like the large forest close to where Ambika’s village is located. For generations her community lived off the forest, but things have forced them to change. Timber companies and paper mills are constantly eroding the forests making forest life unsustainable. And so, this little community has moved from being forest dwellers to people who live in a village.
Trócaire has helped this community to come together to work for a better future. Every month the village’s development committee meet to follow through on a plan they have put together, with the help of Trócaire’s partners, to work their way out of poverty. From this working together, they now have some of the basic things they need; a functioning school they built themselves, improved roads, better drainage, agricultural advice for improved yields, day labour sponsored by the local government to supplement their incomes, better homes for the poorest and most vulnerable of their people, and land titles that are rightfully theirs. I’ve seen the impact of this work and can testify to the powerful change it is leading to in the lives of Ambika’s family and community and in the lives of the poorest of the poor in our world today.
In many ways Ambika’s story is a good news story. It is a story of a community being helped to help themselves. They are working very hard to get themselves out of poverty. The have many needs, but they are united in their struggle. It is a story of great hope in the midst of poverty and the abundant challenges of life. It is the Christian story brought to life in a real and beautiful way.
One of the enduring memories that I will take away from my trip to Ambika’s village is the great welcome that we received from the community. All the members of the village came out to greet us with music and dance. It was a colourful and happy picture. In that spirit of welcome, I ask that you welcome Ambika and her community into your hearts this Lent. Keep them in your prayers, and be assured that the monies gathered from the Lenten Trócaire Box collection will be spent wisely in communities like these, and others, and will continue to enable many others to be life out of poverty.
Thank you for your kindness and for your generous support of the work of Trócaire over the years. May the Lord bless you for all your faithfulness and goodness.