Lay woman who serves differently-abled for 28 years


By Lissy Maruthanakuzhy

Nagpur, June 29, 2019: Geetha Patrick Paul’s association with Jeevodaya, a school for the differently abled in Nagpur, started with an unexpected visit 28 years ago.

A Jeevodaya nun had a fall from her bike on the road and Geetha, who happened to be nearby, brought her to the convent.

“On that day I saw the school for the first time. The sisters told me more about the school and I felt I could be a part of the team,” she told Matters India.

Geetha, a homemaker then, had “sufficient time to dedicate for a good cause” as her children were in the school.

Thus began the association of Geetha, now 57, with Jeevodaya, which was started in 1989 by the Assisi Sisters of Mary Immaculate.

The nuns welcomed Geetha when she expressed her desire to be a part of the school.

“I want to serve these children. It is a blessing to be with them. Each one is different. Sometimes it is difficult to manage them We have to be patient and committed. They are innocent and pure of heart. I feel happy to experience their love,” Geetha explained.

She says the school has become her family now. “My biological children are well settled in life with good jobs and families. I believe that God has blessed them because of my service to his little ones in Jeevodaya school, “she continued.

Geetha, who did not have training in special education, says she learned the job by being present in the school. Now she helps the school and children at different levels: cultural, sports, drawing, crafts.

The school has started making paper bags. ‘During the holidays, we teachers are learning to make it first so that we can teach our students when the school reopens,” Geetha said.

School principal Sr Josna Mary Chemplayil says their staff considers the school as theirs. “That is something very important,” the nun said pointing to Geetha, who just returned from her marketing expedition for the bags.

According to the principal, the school helps its students become self-sufficient to a certain extent.

The three-story school is located in the premises of the Nagpur archbishop’s house campus. It now has 300 students, aged 3 to 60, who are looked after by nine nuns and 36 lay people during the 5-hour school day.

The school also employs professional physiotherapists to help the students and has vocational training rooms where they are taught to how to make candles, packets and other things.

According to Sr. Josna, the institution has helped more than 1,000 people since its inception with three children,

Sister Josna says much of her time is spent counseling the parents. “Some children are unmanageable at home. The parents come here and cry their heart out,” she told Matters India.

The parents tell the nuns that a normal illness will go away after a few days or months. But the disability is a lifelong challenge.

And people such as Geetha try to help them meet the challenge with joy.

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