Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it has dedicated 6,000 euros toward the renovation of the Karunalaya Leprosy Care Centre in Puri, Eastern India.
The Centre was established by Marian Zelazek - Polish missionary, two-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and laureate of numerous humanitarian awards - who worked in India since 1950. Father Zelazek was born in 1918 in Paledzie near Poznan as one of the sixteen children of Marcin Zelazek, a miller and farmer. During World War II, he was detained in the concentration camp in Dachau where he remained until the end of the war. He then continued his studies in Rome and was ordained a priest. Since 1950 he stayed on a mission in India, working among the Adivasi nomadic people. In 1975 he established the Karunalaya Leprosy Care Centre in Puri. Father Zelazek died in 2006 and was buried in Jharsuguda, India.
The Karunalaya Leprosy Care Centre includes a medical facility for leprosy victims, a leper colony and a school for affected children. The Centre offers shelter to nearly 1300 people. Polish funds will provide space for over a dozen new patients. 58% of last year’s total worldwide new cases of leprosy were diagnosed in India.
This is not the only Polish contribution to humanitarian aid in India. Just recently the Ministry announced the success of another project, this time in Nongbah, Northeast India. The school for visually impaired children was established by Franciscan Sisters Servants of the Cross with the financial support of Polish MFA. In 2012 the MFA’s Polish Aid Programme reserved and donated around 13,000 euros to the project, followed by 5,000 this year. The funds went toward establishing the school and provision of the needed equipment. The new facility was inaugurated by Polish ambassador to India Piotr Klodkowski.
Nongbah is one of the oldest settlements in the Jaintia Hills territory, inhabited by several thousand citizens of different religious backgrounds: Catholic, Presbyterian, Protestant (Church of North India) and indigenous. In this diversified community, Sisters bring unbiased help. As Sister Sara describes on the Polish Missions website (misje.pl), Nongbah is a poverty-stricken village with large amount of children, many of whom do not attend school at all. Their duties are of a different kind - they begin working at an early age: tending the rice fields, taking care of younger siblings, making long walks to water wells and generally helping around the house. Over 350 local people assisted in the preparations. Many came hoping for a meal.
The Congregation of Franciscan Sisters Servants of the Cross was established in 1918 by Polish nun Elzbieta Czacka who herself was blind. The Sanskrit name of the Congregation is ‘Jyothi Seva’ and it indeed reflects the convent’s message: ‘Serving the Light’.
The school in Nongbah is but one of humanitarian and educational initiatives of the Congregation known for its commitment to helping the visually impaired. In Poland, the Sisters established and run to this day the notable facility in Laski, a place that has helped and educated over 2000 pupils during its 92 years of existence. In addition, the Sisters run convents in Ukraine, Italy, Rwanda and South Africa. Besides Nongbah, the Congregation runs schools in Bangalore and Kotagiri.
Since the 90s, Polish humanitarian aid has been reaching remote corners of the world by contributing human and material resources to aid the needy. Established in 1994 by Janina Ochojska, Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) runs long-term aid and development projects as well as organizes emergency help in cases of natural disasters. As the website states, PAH’s mission is ‘to make the world a better place by alleviating human suffering and promoting humanitarian values’.
PAH effectively works both in Poland and abroad. Since 1998, the organization has been running the meal program ‘Pajacyk’ aimed at obtaining sponsorship for fighting with malnutrition through Polish educational facilities. Everyone can help by clicking the banner on the PAH website. By June, there has been 55099 entries on the page. PAH expands its activities dealing with the starvation also abroad.
Since 2004, PAH holds the annual Water Campaign, addressing the issue of water deficiency in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Iraq and constantly working on expanding the project’s range. In 20 years, PAH has provided access to water for over half a million people.
Acting in different areas of humanitarian help: educational, developmental and material, PAH has reached 44 countries, provided 10,000,000 meals, provided education opportunity to 25,000 students and supported 17,000 refugees.
In 2013, Poland is working, both on the departmental and non-governmental level, to promote democracy and human rights. Adding to the EU’s activities, Poland runs the European Endowment for Democracy project, particularly addressing the situation in Belarus, and engages in humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees.
Author: Aleksandra Szweda / pr-controlled.com ©
Portrait of Janina Ochojska by Waldemar Kompała