by Marilyn Kaleel, March 31, 2023
“I met Father Chacko through some friends in Tampa, and immediately, I felt warmth and genuineness from him and wanted to hear more about the desperate need in his hometown of Shivamogga, India of a Hospice home. He is a Catholic priest, but he is dedicated to helping people of all faiths without any conditions to improve their lives. When I discussed the project he had in mind of building a structure for people of that region to die with dignity, I was moved.
My friends, who are very generous and would support this, needed to know it would be checked out to make sure who was doing it and how they were planning to make it happen, and this would be a good investment in making a difference. That meant traveling to this remote town and seeing for myself. This town is a 7 hours drive from Bangalore, India, and after a long plane ride, I was unprepared to spend this much time in a car and was exhausted when I arrived. I found a group of committed people, making at most $150 a month, but through their faith, working hard to create a loving environment for the sick to be treated and live out their last days peacefully. Father Abraham, working with several nuns, who have degrees in nursing, are working out of an old structure with many problems and is not set up for this kind of work. I met the nine patients that were there, and their stories were tragic. One young girl, 22, had aids that she contracted from her parents, who had both died. She had worked very hard living with this disease and taking care of them before they succumbed, and now she was at the end of her own life.
The others were people whose families could not afford to care for them. I was struck by the love the staff shared with them and kept thinking how lucky I was to have close family and the knowledge that when it came my time, I would not be forced to be left behind at the mercy of others. The Navajeevan Holistic and Palliative Care Center patients were considered lucky. Many in India don’t even have this option. The plan is to build a 28-bed facility with modern bathrooms designed for this purpose. This will make a huge difference in this community. I have personally given $5,000 to this effort and I hope you will join me in creating this safe haven for these people to die with dignity.”