Diocesan Women's Ministry goes beyond borders

The Marth Mariam Samajam (Women's Ministry) of the Northeast American Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (Queens/Long Island/ Brooklyn Area) collected and donated cloths for a tribal village in Attappady, which is received spiritual care and charitable support from the Monastery of St. Thomas. 

The 10 Orthodox Churches in that participated in the project are:

St. Gregorios Orthodox Church - 175 Cherry Lane Floral Park, NY, St. Mary's Orthodox Church - 38 Cherry Avenue West Sayville, NY 11796, St. Thomas Orthodox Church of Long Island, St. Gregorios Orthodox Church of Elmont, St. Baselios Orthodox Church - 1840 Atherton Avenue Elmont, NY 11003, St. Basil's Orthodox Church - 17 Randolph Avenue Franklin Square, NY 11010, St. Mary’s Orthodox Church of Jackson Heights, St. Stephen's Orthodox Church - 497 Godwin Ave Midland Park, NJ 07432, St. Baselios Orthodox Church of Brooklyn and St. Thomas Orthodox Church - 360 W. Blackwell Street Dover, NJ 07801.

The Monastic Community of St. Thomas and the Aarogya Poshanam Project in Attappady offered their prayers and gratitude to His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos, Metropolitan, Rev. Fr. T. A. Thomas, Vice President, and all office bearers of Marth Mariam Samajam, including the General Secretary and Regional Secretary of this dynamic ministry, and the charity coordinator.

This charitable drive would not have been possible without the hard work of the Vicars & members of these churches, and unit Secretaries, for their help.

Click here to view gallery. Below is a report from the Charity Coordinator, Mrs. Ammukutty Paulose.

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Marth Mariam Samajam of the Northeast American Diocese

Charity Project: Attappady Clothing Drive

The Marth Mariam Samajam of the Northeast American Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church was divided into seven regions in 2013. One of those regions is made up of nine parishes from Queens/Long Island/Brooklyn area, and the area coordinator is Mrs. Sara Mathew. 

His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos, our Diocesan Metropolitan, stressed the need for charity work both at local and international levels. At a meeting of the region comprising of parishes in Queens/Long Island/Brooklyn area, Mrs. Mini George brought up for discussion the idea of donating good used clothes to India. Everyone welcomed the idea and later decided on Attappady Mission as the recipient. 

Very. Rev. Yuhanon Ramban, Superior, St. Thomas Ashram at Attappady, was contacted to discuss ways and means to carry out the project. Rambachan (Monk Priest) was very happy about the project. Brochures were made and distributed to all nine parishes involved. The women from these parishes were asked to collect clothes that are useful in Kerala such as saris, blouses, salwars, children’s clothes and men’s wear. The response was overwhelming. 

The donated clothes were collected and stored in the basement of the Diocesan Chancery in Muttontown, New York.

Meanwhile, the US Van Lines were contacted and the terms and conditions for possible shipment were agreed to. Boxes and packing materials were purchased according to their specifications. Volunteers from the nine parishes, both men and women, and some of the office bearers of Marth Mariam Samajam met on a Sunday afternoon at the ‘Aramana’ and worked late into night, sorting out the appropriate clothes to be sent. The job could not be finished in one day and therefore some of us had to go back couple more evenings to finish it. The selected cloths were packed into 87 boxes, 84 from Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island region and three boxes from St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Dover, New Jersey where Rev. Fr Shibu Daniel is the Vicar. The rest of the clothes packed into 100 boxes were distributed to various charity organizations in Long Island/NYC region.

It was decided to entrust me with the task of delivering the goods to Attappady as I had planned to visit India in Nov- Dec months. The shipment reached Cochin port on November 29, 2013 and it was ready for inspection and release December 4th. I had to go to the Kochi port along with our agent Mr. Bobby Abraham. Customs authorities viewed this shipment quite unusual. Therefore, they opened each and every box, combing through the contents and checked them out. The commissioner of customs along with two other officers inspected the cargo with workers opening boxes. They questioned me on the origin and the plan and place of distribution. I told them the truth and they seemed satisfied with the explanation. Finally the shipment was cleared and released. By the grace of God and to my pleasant surprise no duty was imposed at all. 

Mr. Bobby Abraham arranged for a truck to cart the boxes to Attappady. We decided to take the stuff the same day. Boxes were loaded on to the truck and off we went to Attappady. I went in the truck along with the driver and a helper that I took with me. It took about 8 hours to get to Attappady as the terrain is hilly and roads have many hair pin curves. We left Kochi around 4 p.m. and reached Attappady after midnight. Yuhanon Rambachen and some of his staff stayed up awaiting our arrival.

I went to one of the villages the next day along with Rambachen and staff to distribute the clothes. We put the clothes out on a clear surface and asked the villagers (Adivasis) to choose whatever they liked. They were very happy. It looked like children going through their Christmas gifts, not sure which one they should play with first. Within one hour almost all the clothes were gone. We also visited one family where there are two brothers (adult men) who are mentally disturbed and socially withdrawn. They have two of their sisters who look after them. We gave them some bed sheets and other clothes.

The next day, the members and well wishers of the Ashram (Monastery) arranged for all the neighboring people to come over to the Ashram to collect clothes. We arranged the clothes on the veranda of the chapel. Many people including Adivasis and settlers showed up. They combed through the clothes and left with bagfuls. We also kept a few boxes of clothes to be given to the children at the orphanage and school.

I spent two days at the Ashram. It was indeed a blessed experience. Even after leaving I have been in touch with Rambachen who told me that more than 60% of the clothes are already distributed.

I was also able to take part in the Arogyaposhanam project of the St. Thomas Ashram. The Ashram has adopted 8 villages. The monks, and staff of the Ashram, along with couple of local orthodox parishes divide themselves into 2 or 3 batches and visit each of these villages every evening. They have initiated a project of providing nutritious food to about 530 people. They are mostly children under 15. Pregnant or breast feeding women and some very elderly people are also included. The meal consisted of one hard-boiled egg, a bun and a glass of boiled milk. The milk and eggs are prepared every afternoon in the ashram. These are received very eagerly by the villagers. This project has been publicized in news papers and other media. Even Kerala government has taken note of it. The project costs about Rs. 10,000 a day.

The monks and staff of the Ashram were very grateful for our donation. They would like us to stay involved, and also visit them whenever possible.

It was quite a blessed experience. Everyone involved in this project worked very hard but especially mentionable are the names of Mrs. Mini George, and our area coordinator Mrs. Sara Mathew. All the parishes as well as several individuals contributed generously to the shipping and handling charges. I thank each and every one of them including Mr. Bobby Abraham. 

At the time of distribution of clothes, watching those faces lighting up at the sight of the goodies we prepared for them were emotional moments for me. I could read in those faces that our efforts were paid off. Thanks to all those who pitched in their time, money and effort. We made a difference in some lives and our effort was definitely worth it. Thanks to our Nicholovos Thirumeni for the vision and the leadership and thanks to God who guided us in every step of the way.

Tags: Charity, Marth Mariam Samajam

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