He has been working for the last 33 years with the tribals

Moving story of a Magsaysay winner

It had been only been a few days since the Magsaysay awards were announced but life was as usual for one of the winners. Not very surprising as Francis Kolandei, a name not many in India, let alone in Tamil Nadu, have heard of, prefers to work silently. In fact, he hadn’t even heard of Magsaysay awards till he was told that he had won one. He has been working for the last 33 years with the tribals living in the remotest parts of Tamil Nadu and later with the underprivileged women in some of the canada goose shop uk villages in Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri and Vellore making them self sufficient.

Today, canada goose outlet real his organisation, Integrated Village Development Program (IVDP), an NGO, works with 8,231 Self Help Groups (SHGs) and 153,990 people.

IVDP has moved into their new sparklingly clean office only a month ago, and everyone, from canada goose parka outlet uk the watchman to the women working in the office, is proud of it.

The day I went to meet Kolandei Francis in Krishnagiri, there was a monthly meeting of the 350 women who were in charge of the various SHGs. In uniform, they sat in the conference room. Chaired by Muniratnam, the chief coordinator, the meeting discussed the previous month’s work and planned for the coming month.

Excerpts of the long chat I had with Kolandei Francis:

You had a tough childhood. Do you look back at those days?

How can canada goose jacket uk I forget those days? I come from a very poor family in a remote place in Salem and my family went through unimaginable poverty. Ours was not an isolated case; many families in that area were extremely poor. we had a small piece of land, our parents worked as coolies in the farm land owned by others.

Later, my father got a job in the Railways as a gangman, and after that we moved with him to various places. But there was not enough money to even feed six children and two adults. But my mother had this desire to educate her children. Unfortunately, none of her children except me went beyond the 10th standard. It was not her fault. She tried to give education but they didn’t make use of the opportunity. My mother was happy that at least one son of hers was interested in studying.

canada goose clearance To send me to school and the University, my mother started small businesses like selling milk, rice, etc. I used to help her sell in the evenings after school. Life was so tough that everybody had to pitch in to make the family run. canada goose clearance

When I was ready to go Annamalai University my mother decided to mortgage the small piece of land. By the time I finished college, my mother had lost the land as the moneylender cheated her.

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cheap canada goose uk Was it because your mother lost the only piece of land she had that later on, you chose to work with the poor who get cheated canada goose outlet in usa by moneylenders? cheap canada goose uk

Canada Goose Online It was not just one incident but my entire childhood and the poverty we underwent had a strong impact on me. And that is why I decided to work with the poor who get cheated. Canada Goose Online

canada goose coats on sale The hardship we went through cannot be explained in words. If I had not suffered the way I did, probably, I would not be doing what I am doing right now. I would have taken up a good job, got married and helped my mother like everybody else. That is the way each and every human being behaves. canada goose parka uk There is nothing wrong in that too. canada goose coats on sale

But I was impacted by harsh poverty and I do not know whether it was a positive or negative impact.

uk canada goose outlet Why did you opt for priesthood after your graduation? uk canada goose outlet

After I graduated in 1969, I wanted to do social work. Coming from a Christian background, what came to my mind was to join priesthood. I thought I could help the poor only if I became a priest.

canada goose store What was your mother’s reaction when you took the decision? canada goose store

She didn’t like it a bit. She tried her best to dissuade me. She said she suffered a lot to educate me and I canada goose outlet black friday sale shouldn’t be deserting the family. I told her that I could not be like everyone else and help only my own family. I didn’t know whether I would be happy being useful only to my family.

Luckily for me, the moment I entered the seminary, my brother got a chance to work in Iraq, and that eased my guilt because I knew he would be able to help my family. She was happy that there was at least one person who would help the family.

Click on NEXT for more.

While you 2014parka.com were in the seminary, you were canada goose outlet sent to help the refugees of the Bangladesh war. In what way did it affect you?

Yes, they sent me to help those affected by the war. I was on the Bangladesh border and there were many refugee camps there. The suffering and pain in the refugee camps had to be seen to be understood. Only those who witnessed it in person would know how bad the situation was.

canadian goose jacket After the kind of poverty we underwent, the sufferings I saw in the refugee camps also impacted me deeply. canadian goose jacket

Then and there, I started thinking whether I would be able to ease the suffering of such people as a priest.

I was sent from the seminary to do my Masters in Philosophy in Pune and soon after that, I was in the drought hit areas of Maharashtra. Once again, I saw human suffering in front of my eyes.

Looking back, I feel God wanted me to witness all kinds of human suffering so that I would be driven to do something to help people.

When did you decide to give up priesthood?

Canada Goose Outlet That was after I went to a very remote village. In 1975, I was sent to an interior village for one year. From Hosur, we travelled 75 kms to Anjetty, and from there, canada goose factory outlet vancouver we walked 25 kms to reach almost the middle of a forest where many people lived Canada Goose Outlet.

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