The suffering and loss of life to the people whom the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth serve are present and very real due to the flooding in Kerala this past August. In the light of the resurrection, remember in hope that suffering can be transformed into new life and that death itself is a point of entry into eternal life.
It was heavily raining throughout the day and the night of Aug. 9, 2018, in Makimala Village. A brave young man, Razmal (17), woke up to the sound of falling stones and debris on him. With a flashlight, he saw that the roof had collapsed on him and something heavy kept falling on it. Through the iron frame, he got out and saw that his parents, Razak and Zeenath, were beyond reach. He was able to rescue his two brothers, Raznaz (15) and Razal (11) from their rooms. Knowing that both of his parents were lost he had the courage to walk down with his brothers in knee deep water to the neighbor’s houses in order to alert them of the impending danger from the flooding.
All ran for shelter. The three brothers came down to their grandparents’ house below the mountain to inform their uncle about their parents being trapped in the house. Until morning no one could go near their house for it was fully covered in debris.
The next morning, most of the people were shifted to a relief camp in the Little Flower parish school. Thathamma, the mother of Razak, was admitted to the hospital and her daughter was with her. As the news of the two deaths in their family spread in the locality, Thathamma was discharged quickly and taken to the relief camp. Since it was raining and the roads were dangerous to travel, local youths on twelve motorbikes (three on each bike) escorted their vehicle to the camp clearing the fallen stones and trees from the roads.
By noon the two bodies were recovered from the debris and laid out in the Little Flower School because the Mosque and the houses were under water. For the first time, this local Muslim community used a Catholic church compound for prayers before their burial. Thathamma shared with the Sisters how difficult it is for her to reconcile to the situation. She said her chest is burdened thinking about the sight of seeing the bodies of her dear son and daughter-in-law.
Living with their grandmother and uncle’s family, the three boys are in 41 days of mourning according to their custom. Bincy Varghese and the SCN Kakkavayal field staff, visit the family frequently. With her interventions and initiatives, the nearby Catholic priest immediately transferred money to the account of these three boys for their education. Bincy also visited the relief camp to be present to the people.
The house of Razmal’s aunt, Azmabi, also was damaged in the same frightful night. She was not in her house at the time. Local people and the panchayat members have hired a rented house for her in the town for the time being. The three boys will be looked after by her. Bincy found a sponsor for Azambi for three sewing machines as well as for learning cutting and tailoring to begin a shop and thus make a living.
The entire area was flooded and the only government school in Makimala was damaged. Three days before reopening the school, after the Onam (Kerala harvest festival) holidays, the local youth, the Mosque members, some professionals, and the panchayat (local self-government) officials came together to rebuild the school. Part of the school is run in the Mosque, part in the storeroom of the forest department, and the rest in the old school building. All three buildings are well painted with animals, cartoons, beautiful sceneries, alphabets, and numbers and provided them with play items by the above groups.
SCNs in Kakkavayal minister in the three of the four sub-divisions (Thaluks) in Wayanad district. They help to empower women through legal awareness classes, counseling, dialogue, and intervention through the court of law when required. Domestic violence, desertion, divorce, obtaining alimony, contacting government officials for free government schemes for the poor and Tribal. are some of the issues they deal with. Besides her legal practice in the civil court, Joicy Joy, SCN, visits the people in many of the villages in these sub-divisions. Thathamma was much moved to see Sister Joicy in her house and held her hand and wept.
Sister Joicy, Bincy and Malini Manjoly, SCN, also visited Poyil Village, a tribal colony near a stream in the same area on Sept. 11, 2018. Most of them live in the government land and they have no ownership of it. They felt some kind of discrimination in the relief camp and they felt free to share with us the same. Their wells are caved in as the consequence of flooding. Their immediate need is having clean drinking water. There are no tube wells or running water in the area. Now they are forced to dig small holes at the riverbed to collect water for drinking. Their only bamboo bridge which connected them to the road has been washed away completely.
Many are living in fear and trembling. Small and big steps have to be taken to bridge the tribals and the flood victims to the rest of the world and back to normal healthy living.
Malini Manjoly, SCN / More photos