Pope Francis last week made a donation of approximately 20 thousand euros in support of the Shanti Ashram women’s health and social centre in Coimbatore, India. Through a food bank and medical assistance and volunteer training facilities, Shanti Ashram has assisted over 50,000 children and their families in the villages around the city of Coimbatore, India.
According to Vatican News, the “Marathon for Solidarity” fundraiser was the inspiration of Professor Antonia Testa, Professor of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at the Catholic University’s Rome campus. Two years ago, during a trip to India, she met the president of the Shanti Ashram, paediatrician Kezevino Aram; who is also Vice Chair of the Arigatou International Advisory group. The event raised almost 40 thousand euros, well short of their goal. Cardinal Krajewski reported that the Pope had decided to offer a donation to make up the difference, enabling Shanti Ashram to continue its work for the people of southern India.
Specifically, Shanti Ashram has been a longstanding partner of Arigatou International – End Child Poverty; through the India Poverty Solutions programme. The core appeal of India Poverty Solutions rests upon it being led by children, for children. Children and youth set up their own savings mechanism, using a variety of devices such as “anundiyalor hundi”- a traditional home savings box (piggybank). After a given period, the young people collectively gather their savings and allocate the funds equitably to the child or youth for her or his own uses, supporting their respective families; and towards the larger society and meeting community development needs. This system of collective social responsibility for family and community development has led to a growing sense of confidence among the children and youth, as they have become more aware of their capability to affect their world, with the resources they have at hand.