Monique Bollaerts' newsletter, April 2013
“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous”
Only few people experience life as a calm, peaceful stream. More often hard rocks and unforeseen waterfalls drag you into a turmoil in which orientation and meaning of life lose all sense. To then get back onto your feet is to “give time to time”, as wise people say. You must give yourself time, you must allow yourself to be helped by ‘coincidences’: a glance, a couple of words, a vague impression. Mere irrational… yet true. A ‘coincidence’ can be a random indication with a past… in a lane… in life.
A drama in my family has torn me apart. It has deprived me of all certainties, of all truths, of anything of importance.
Then suddenly there is a… ‘coincidence’.
There are photo’s that suddenly appear on the doormat, on a morning that required a hero’s courage to get up. Photo’s of laughing children on the other side of the world: children that face their uncertain future with a hopeful laugh…
Or the sudden story of godparents, since 15 years, and their now adult godchild… A bridge between yesterday and today, between here and somewhere else…
These are straws that do not heal the wounds, but for a moment you see a light… For a couple of moments you wish to continue and you see a sense in your life… My own life, so strictly connected with India and with all the children whose future depends on our being there just at the right moment.
There are the children of Ankleshwar… When Father Joaquin Castiella – the perfect successor to Father Lopetegui – talked to me about them, his eyes were glistening with joy for projects realised, for, biblically, the miraculous draft of fishes! This is what he said to me…
The fishermen dare not venture far from the river bank in such dilapidated barges. However, thinking of an old Chinese proverb we can say: “Give a fisherman a decent boat and he will have his daily meal.”
“There are a number of villages along the banks of the river Narmada, villages inhabited by landless Adivasis whose only source of income is the little fishing they can do in that river. We are in close contact with those villages because poor though they are, they send their children to be educated in our boarding school. At present we have children from Sarfudin, Kalapia, Sakarpur and Borbatha… all four villages are on the banks of the river.
To catch fish in the river, they use nets and some old wooden boats which they manoeuvre with oars or with the help of long poles. In such primitive boats they can only move along the bank of the river where the fish are not abundant, and therefore their income is barely enough to survive. Usually they work four people in a boat, two on the oars and two with the nets. Even if they manage to catch fish worth 500 Rupees in a day, divided by four is a very poor income… And some days they don’t catch anything because the resources in the bank of the river have been depleted.
If they had bigger and motor boats, they could venture further down the river, catch much more fish and make a decent living. Such boats are available at a very reasonable price at a seaport where ships from all over the world come to be dismantled. The life boats of those ships, most of them never used, are sold as second hand boats in Alang, Bhavanagar… where our people could go to buy them and with some skilful bargaining could get them at a reasonable price. One such boat can surely change the economic situation of a family. The current price is around € 1,500 per boat.
Father Castiella, surrounded by his boys in the boarding of Ankleshwar.
The criteria to select beneficiaries would be mainly the number of children in a family and their readiness to educate their children. ‘If you are ready to send the children to our boarding school, we shall help you to catch more fish’, or words to that effect. That way there will be immediate economic progress and long term educational benefit. If we could provide one or two boats per year, slowly many more families will be willing to educate their children. And that is surely a great social transformation”, thus told me Father Castiella..
We don’t have any godparents in Ankleshwar, and it is getting more and more difficult to find godparents willing to commit themselves for a longer period of time. Therefore we have decided to help these children with… boats. A small motorboat can provide a family with a livelihood and give the children a chance to attend school… that is the ‘conditio sine qua non’ for the gift!
(Oddly this project reminds me of the buffalo project, some 35 years ago. But that is another story…)