On Wednesday we walked to the village of Kulitalai, which is next to Shantivanam, to get a tour of several projects that are supported by the ashram.
Our first stop was a home for the aged. It was established many years ago at a time when the restrictions due to the caste system kept people of one caste or faith tradition separate from the other. Father Bede took a very bold step and purchased a house in the middle of the village to provide care and a home for the most vulnerable in the community regardless of their caste or religious tradition.
It has grown over the years, and the residents are provided neat and comfortable quarters that resemble monastic cells. When food is made at the ashram for guests, a portion of the food is delivered to the home three times a day. The monks also provide pastoral care and support to the community.
People in the village must have thought they were being invaded by 29 white people and a big, tall African American man as we made of way down the main street. I’m sure the locals are accustomed to having people come from Shantivanam to do a little shopping now and then–but not 29 people!
Our next visit was to a small collection of weavers, who make saris, the most common form of clothing worn by women in this part of India. Hopefully you’ll notice in the pictures I’m sending that all the equipment used is human powered. There are three looms–all made out of unfinished lumber, rope, wire, and hardware. Notice also the spinning wheel that used to be a bicycle.
The ashram has also constructed many homes in the village–small units by American standards but quite an improvement in living conditions for the locals.
We were welcomed warmly by everyone. Although it wasn’t open on this day, the ashram organizes a medical clinic once a week in the village.
There’s always more to tell. Stay tuned.