Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Road from Leper Colony to IIITM ( Indian Institute of Information Technology and Management )

Albert Einstein has rightly said ,
''Try not to become a man of Success , but rather try to become a man of Value ! ''

Today when I spoke to Raju Achen, he had a great news to tell me. A story of the Road from Leper Colony to IIITM Gwalior. IIITM Gwalior is known to be one among the top 25 Engineering colleges in the Country which is the Almamater to many brilliant Engineers across the World. And it is indeed a matter of great Pride for all of us to see one of our children from Balagram, has qualified to study in the IIITM , Gwalior. And that is Prasanth , an extremely hard working boy. He burnt midnight oil to achieve his goal.

Raju Achen mentions Prasanth as a role model to all others. He is very humble and well mannered boy. His academic session at IIITM will start in mid august. Now, Prasanth has gone home to meet his parents. He is now a hero in his village. I don't know how much, IIITM makes sense to his poor and illiterate parents but definitely it means a lot to Prasanth and all his brothers in Balagram. Prasanth is the First student from Our Mission Homes across India to reach this height in Education. 

Another tenacious legend is Peter Paul who is now in Kottayam, Kerala to pursue Post Graduate studies in Commerce from P.G .College run by Kottayam Diocese.

My hearty Congratulations to both of them in their Journey ahead. May God bless them and take them through His Light to see the Unseen beauty of Life.

Children ready for the new Academic Year

The new academic session, has started and all students were excited to walk into their new classes with their new uniforms, bags and books.

Pre- seminarians , Bro. Sunil T.V and Bro. Aby Raju are the volunteers for this term who would take tuitions for these children.

Children under the able guidance of Raju Achen

On June 28, St. Pauls Day Perunnal was celebrated and All the children participated in the procession followed by Perunnal feast. It was a blessed occasion for all at Balagram.

Raju Achen told me that after the monsoon rains, Balagram and places around resemble Kerala with lush greens and paddy fields. This year , 80 quintals of wheat was harvested which was a boon from the land.

All the inhabitants are now looking forward to celebrate the Balagrams' 18th Anniversary on 02 August 2013 in the presence of very Rev. K.I. Philip Rambachan and many vicars and parishioners of various churches across the country.

Children at Balagram are taught to humble themselves before God, for everything they have is a Gift from God. All good things are gifts from God, food and clothing, rain and fruitful harvests, faith, grace, wisdom and life itself are all gifts from God. Let us all give thanks to Him for his Love and Compassion that keepsThe Mission on its Wheels.

- Shilpa Susan Eapen

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Academic Excellence at Balagram

We are the Wonderful Work of God

 ‘’ A little more persistence, a little more effort , and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious Success. ‘’

When I read this quote by Elbert Hubbard, I am reminded of the children at ItarsiBalagram. Born to Leper parents, in leper colonies, with  the will  and untiring efforts of OsthathiosThirumeni, few volunteers and helping hands of many members of the Church, these children got a new life, a true meaning to their existence.

Today, when Fr. RajuVettiyanickal (Manager Achen) with great joy told me the Examination results of the children of Balagram , I felt very proud of Our Charity Mission Projects. Thanks to the Pioneer of this Mission Project and All the helping hands. I am extremely happy to be a part of a Faith and Movement that constantly believes and works towards the upliftment of the groundridden.

Balagram had a few students who appeared for the University Examinations and Engineering Entrance Examination.

Peter Paul

      Peter Paul being the first student of Balagram has successfully passed B.Com Degree course and is now heading to join P.G College Kottayam for his Masters.


Two students successfully passed the MP Board XII Std and among them , Prasanth has cracked the MP Board Engineering Entrance Examination held in March 2013. On his successful State Counselling, he could take up a career in Engineering.

Rahul and Dileep

Rahul and Dileep passed the MP Board X Board Exams with flying colours and are now in Senior Secondary School heading to qualify for a Career of their passion.

It is my immense pleasure to congratulate all the students who passed their examinations.

When I see their innocent smiles, I am reminded of the truth that these children unlike the ‘’Silver Spoon’’ born kids, have studied Hard with limited facilities yet a great desire to succeed in Life.
It is indeed very important to know the desire of our heart. Only then we can work towards the accomplishment of our desire, only then we can be a successful Citizen, successful father / mother to the future generations.

These children , unlike their parents who eked out a living by begging on streets, are an inspiration to the World. They teach Us the Truth of Life – Have an unrelenting Belief that things will work out , that the Long road has a purpose, that the things that you desire may not happen today, but they will eventually happen. 

‘’Persist and persevere, your desired path remains possible’’

Children Heading to School

 In Raju Achen’s words ,  ‘’We teach them to have an aim in Life, to successfully live a dignified Life in today’s Progressing Soceity.’

In a nutshell, a holistic wellbeing with good moral values is the Motto of Balagram.

Mixed Cropping at Balagram

Apart from School and Books, these children are very smart in farming the seasonal crops. A major percentage of their income is from Agriculture. This year they take care of the wheat and chickpea farming. Also they are very fond of rearing cows and hens.

They live a very disciplined life to maintain their physical, mental , social and spiritual wellbeing. Their day starts at 5 in the morning till 10 at night. Ms.Sheela is the Warden and Brothers from Theological seminary  Nagpur, do come in to render tuitions and extra support.

Children Singing Songs of Praise 

Orthodox Christian Worship is followed in Balagram Chapel and everyday morning and evening prayers are attended by all students and volunteers without fail. 

The Children here know that to have a Blessed Life, Prayer is as important as eating food and drinking water.

Listening to Rajuachen, I was delighted to realise the marvellous works of Our Lord. Itarsi Balagram is a true example of Psalm 127 :3 – ‘’ Children are a heritage from the Lord ’’. Our Lord always loved children and He proclaimed that the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.

- Shilpa Susan Eapen

Friday, March 1, 2013

How we can get involved

The Balagram is run by the benevolence and kindness of many Godly individuals. Any help is most appreciated.

Like the Seminarians, volunteers could come and stay at the Balagram, help with the children, maybe take tuitions, help with the running of the daily chores in the Balagram. It could be a life changing experience for them. Your life experiences and exposure to the outside world could be of benefit to the children to set aim for in their lives. All these maybe arranged by talking to the manager achen.

Spread awareness about the Balagram, come and visit and spread the word about God's work being done here. Plan vacations such that some time can be spent with the children at the Balagram. Simply by connecting your kids with the children here, you maybe opening doors to great opportunities of collaboration between them in the future, long after your time.

Call up and enquire about the Balagram. Establish a personal contact with the inmates and the staff. Your kind and sincere words could go a long way in keeping the workers on the ground motivated and passionate in their mission.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Christ in their midst

Prayers at the Chapel
When we went to the Balagram, the children were getting ready for worship. I later saw them at the chapel during the evening prayers. They were all alert and attentive, participating in the songs and prayers even though it was in Malayalam. Achen had told me that over time they had gotten used to the "Manglish" transliteration of the service.

Also they have Holy Qurbana in Hindi and English quite often when the kids are able to participate more fully.

I could not help thinking - how great a service in Christian witnessing the Balagram was providing. The children here are not Christians, nor are they baptized as Christians. They belong to different religions, the religions of their parents, whom they go to meet once a year atleast. But here at the Balagram, they are exposed to Christian living, along with Christian giving. The children are not made to feel left outside because they are not Christians. They are in no way co-erced to become Christians, but they see witnesses of Christ in the achen there, in the staff members there. In all these, the children get to see Christ and they experience Christ's love. The children are exposed to love, care and reverance for the Lord, and the God of the Balagram which is Christ.

The eternal prayer warriors of the Balagram
I am thinking, after they become adults and are able to take decisions on their own, if any of them would choose to accept Christ and would want to be baptized, that situation would be considered on a case by case basis considering the choice of the individual and whats best for the individual and his family. And if this did not happen, nothing changes in the relationship of love between the individual and the Balagram. But conversion is not an agenda in this work of mission. As Mar Osthathios, the founder of the Balagram always preached, it is "sharing Christ" and sharing Christ's love that the Balagram is engaged in. Just like Christ reached out to those isolated from society, just like he comforted and healed those who were oppressed, so does the Balagram.

I came back with a very different understanding about mission work and gospel work from my Balagram experience (and indeed from my experiences at all the other mission projects I visited). I felt, this is indeed the right way for mission in India. (and it may be different in the US, Europe and other places) In a land with different faiths of great heritage, where each faith is so spiritually rich in its offerings for a fulfilling life, and in a land where poverty and sicknesses are so great, this is perhaps the only right way to witness Christ, to become like Christ would be among the poor and downtrodden and to love them and care for them unconditionally, exactly like the Balagram is doing. I am proud to be part of the Church that is engaged in mission in this manner.

(as written by Mathew Samuel(Sunil) a visitor to the Balagram in January 2013)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Seminarians come for training

Bro. Vineeth
We met with Brother Vineeth while we were at the Balagram. Bro. Vineeth was a student of the Nagpur Theological Seminary and had come to the Balagram as part of their training. He would stay there for about a month before going back to the Seminary.

When I called up and spoke with Fr. Raju this week (Feb 2013) I was told that Bro. Vineeth had gone back to the Seminary but two more students were expected in the coming month. Achen said that more than any specific training or assistance they would engage in at the Balagram, this was an opportunity for the students to watch the functioning of the Balagram and such institutions at close quarters, (to watch the working of 'faith in action' I thought, from up close) so that later in life they could make a well informed choice if they decide to take up such tasks as part of their ministry. Very apt thinking I thought - and not only for seminarians - this could be very useful experience for us lay people as well.

(as written by Mathew Samuel(Sunil) a visitor to the Balagram in January 2013)

Balagram - the home

Binoy standing at the entrance.
The main entrance to the Balagram has a coutryard for assembly. Fr. Raju's office and room are on the far right  as we enter on the ground floor. There are different rooms for use for the staff and the children.

There are two guest rooms on the first floor, one of which, achen arranged to open for us while we were there. I also found a few bunk beds of the children in the adjacent rooms.


The dining hall is on the far end on the ground floor. There is very nice chapel on the first floor. The small local congregation in the area come to worship often at the chapel.

In the backyard were the vegetable gardens and the stable for livestock. Surrounding the Balagram was the land used for cultivation.

(as written by Mathew Samuel(Sunil) a visitor to the Balagram in January 2013)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Balagram - the children

happy kids at the Balagram
As we entered the Balagram we saw several kids in the hallway, a few of them in a hurry as they were getting ready for the Holy Qurbana that evening. All had happy faces and greeted us warmly. There is a bell in the front entrance courtyard - achen rang it it and all the kids of the Balagram assembled to meet us.

little Aryan
36 children find their home here. They study in the MGM school run by the Bhilai Mission which is nearby. They had just returned from school and were now getting ready for the prayers in the evening. (Moonu Nombu(three day fast) was getting over that day).

A nice opportunity to interact with them
We had already met Peter, who was in BCom Final year, now we met Aryan, who was the youngest, now in Nursery, along with all the others. All the kids were chirpy and excited to talk to us. We had a chat for a little bit, I asked them if they enjoyed the prayers and they nodded, I asked them if they liked it in English,Hindi or Malayalam, and they were unanimous in their reply - "Malayalam". Perhaps the language has its magic, I thought, as none of them were Malayalees.

These kids would stay in the Balagram throughout the year. They have learnt to participate in the prayers and the life of the staff there and had learnt Malayalam as well along the way.
 In a year for about 10-15 days the children are sent to be with their parents as per Government stipulation. These kids are originally from different places in India.One look at the kids' faces told me, they love this place! And from the conversation with Raju achen I gathered, he loves them like his own. They are a family here.

(as written by Mathew Samuel(Sunil) a visitor to the Balagram in January 2013)