From The Kentucky Standard — By Carrie Pride
Planes, trains…and rickshaw? They were just some of the means of transportation for Spalding Hurst as he traveled to India with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth in January.
But taking days to get from one place to another, Hurst depended on his guide, Sister Maline Manjoly, SCN, to take him on this journey throughout the India countryside to learn first hand about their ministry work and to assist in the technology of the connection in the global SCN community, and record the stories of the Sisters in India.
It was a journey he says he will never forget.
Spalding Hurst is the communications specialist with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Bardstown.
He works in graphics, web design and video editing and gathers stories for the sisters and the ministries used for the magazine, Website and internal communications to support the Sisters in the Worldwide SCN congregation.
Previously he was in the television industry as a video editor and web master.
“In this job, the journalism is really the only new part I am getting used to,” he said.
The three-week India excursion took Hurst to 19 sites including orphanages, hostels, schools and medical facilities.
Hurst recorded his journey on a blog with photos and stories of his passage through India and relayed information to other employees of his experiences and what the Sisters are doing there.
With his wife and two small children at home, he kept in touch with them through Internet video chats, if he could.
“Sometimes there would be no power or even hot water,” Hurst said. “Or the Internet just wasn’t fast enough. I know about hardships but to witness it first- hand, makes it more understandable. Conditions were tough, it’s not like here where you can call up someone for a quick fix,” he said.
It took days to get somewhere and roads could be closed or you could be killed if in the wrong place, he said.
Sisters have been attacked or held at gunpoint by those after money, he said. “I didn’t encounter any problems though, the Sisters kept me safe,” Hurst said.
Asha Niwas, which means “House of Hope,” is in Gurgaon near Delhi in India. Asha Niwas is one of the SCN ministries, which provides a home, education and nurturing care to children of women who are caught in the commercial sex trade. These children have lived their early years in brothels with their mothers and without intervention would most likely fall into the same way of life.
Asha Niwas attempts to break this cycle by offering children a safe environment, an opportunity for learning and a chance to believe in their own worth and dignity.
“Sisters in Gurgaon talk with the madams and obtain a familiarity with them and work a deal to take the children so parents can see them and mothers can escape from the brothels,” Hurst said.
The girls are not accepted back into their families after coming to a brothel, he said. If found out they would be beaten.
As of today, Asha Niwas has a new orphanage, which will house 150 kids. Workers built the new site from their own materials as well as their own tools.
In the village of Rajgir the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth minister to children who have been affected by polio. Many of these children have limited mobility because their limbs have been affected so severely. SCNs provide rehabilitation and an education so that these children can live a life of dignity and feel a sense of self-worth.
More than 100 students live in the hostel and receive proper nutrition, physical rehab skills training, formal academic training and surgery if needed.
Residential school for the blind
The Residential School for the Blind in Gaya is not an SCN ministry. Sr. Rena Fernandes SCN, volunteers there part-time and assists in the paperwork and applications for the Indian government for funds.
“It was one of the places I visited and was one of the most memorable. The kids are very poor and they have nothing and are in constant need of food daily,” Hurst said.
The children live and learn all in this one building. They learn to read brail and play musical instruments as part of their curriculum. Sister Rena is working to bring in government aid to these students so they can continue their education.
Asha Deepam is in the city of Trichy. This school has helped with teaching and developing skills for children with mental disabilities. Under the direction of SCNs Sabina Mattappallil and Elsy Vettickal, Asha Deepam helps children earn respect and build self-esteem for their diversity and special abilities.
The students come from many backgrounds with varying degrees of intellectual and physical disabilities.
“The students would begin their day with yoga, and later I witnessed some of the girls make cleaning supplies and crafts to sell to raise money for the school,” Hurst said.
The school is also active in the Special Olympics.
In addition to visiting the CN sites, Hurst toured some of the other attractions in India as well.
“The Ganges River was an amazing thing to see,” Hurst said.
The people of India believe this river is life, purity, and a goddess to the people of India. The river is Ganga Ma, “Mother Ganges.” Her name and her story are known throughout the land. It is the story of how she poured herself down from heaven upon the ashes of King Sarga’s sons. Her waters would raise them up again to dwell in peace in heaven. Not only that, but anyone who touches these purifying waters even today are said to be cleansed of all sins.
“The River has the highest density of humans and is very polluted,” Hurst said. “The Ganges River is known by residents to be a very holy place where people would place their dead.”
“It is considered to be the dirtiest river in the world. There are no regulations and factories spill waste into it,” Hurst said.
With some of the more out of the ordinary attractions, Hurst believes India is still an extraordinary place.
“Personally it was an eye- opening experience to see a place so different from the United States. Poverty and wealthy living amongst one another. So many people everywhere, which could be great in some ways but with all of its challenges it was very rewarding and I would love to spend more time there; it is a beautiful country,” Hurst said.
As well as India he feels the same about his job.
“Nothing can beat the Sisters,” he said.