Children greet visitors in the village of Garora, on the outskirts of Delhi, India. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Girls at the Virmala Orphanage in Marthandam, run by the Daughters of Mary. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Disabled child at an informal education center in Dehli. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Children in the village of Garora, on the outskirts of Dehli. (photo: John E. Kozar)
Monsignor Kozar at the Alphonsa Balika Bhavan at Nellimood, Trivandrum. (photo: John E. Kozar)
As I write, I am planning another pastoral visit to India in just a few short days. No doubt this upcoming trip will only confirm in my heart and soul how there are so many needs among poor children in this very large country — but it will also remind me of what beautiful treasures are the little ones of India.
Despite horrible conditions of poverty, neglect and abuse, the children there manage to smile. When I try to bring smiles on their faces, I am rewarded with the gentle and reassuring messages that they reflect back to me: Life is very difficult, but there is always reason to be joyful. That joy and those beaming faces seem to radiate in the programs that CNEWA is so privileged to support.
Being a priest who loves to engage — some would say “entertain” — the children, I find myself always more the beneficiary of loving joy, rather than the benefactor of good will. And the joy of these beautiful children is infectious, especially for their priests, sisters and other caregivers. Even the sisters who insist on discipline and good order cannot resist the power of those grinning little ones. And that only brings out the best in me — as I, too, am captivated by their joy-filled smiles and laughter.
Imagine a 7- or 8-year-old entrusted with the care of two or three younger siblings. This is a very common experience in India. Sometimes, there is no mother figure, or she is out all day working to feed her children. Often, responsibility falls upon the oldest child — perhaps 7 or 8 or 9 years old, hardly big enough to hold a baby in their arms — yet they provide all the loving support and care of someone much older.
Children with special needs, both physical and mental, are typically marginalized and oftentimes receive no opportunity for education, self-help or decent care. The church, with the support of CNEWA, makes a big difference in the quality of life for all God’s little ones, at whatever age. So many of the programs of the church restore dignity to more than just those in need, but to their families and communities as well. In this sense, the church in India is the ultimate “pro-life” voice in a society where so many are excluded from enjoying a decent life.
Your support helps to maintain the smiles and the joys of India’s poor children, in spite of their suffering. Your prayers and your gifts to Catholic Near East Welfare Association refresh their joy, upholding the dignity of all God’s children and helping big brothers and big sisters to care for their “little ones.”
On their behalf, I offer you their beautiful smiles as a warm “thank you,” and their prayers asking God to bless you.