On the night of August 31st last, Father Augusto Colombo, missionary priest who worked for Pime in India since 1952, left us.
He suffered a heart attack in Trivadrum in Kerala, where he was visiting friends to collect funds.
His funeral was celebrated on September 2nd in the cathedral in Warangal by Mons. Joji, bishop of the capital of Andhra Pradesh (Hyderabad), who recalled "his tireless work for social emancipation of the people excluded from castes and lepers".
Thousands of people came from all over India to take part in the ceremony. The death of Father Colombo has left an inconsolable void, but hands over to those who remain, to us and to You, the great responsibility of following his lead, fulfilling his wishes, trying in every way to move closer to the many races and children who still live in conditions of poverty, illness and abandonment.
Drawing a clear rapid sketch of Father Augusto Colombo's story means seeking to sketch the human profile, highlighting his moral urgency in bringing charity to the most needy, his tireless vocation in doing, more than in saying.
Originally from Brianza, to be exact from Cantù, Father Colombo was one of those men for whom achievements and success - even if they had distinguished his pathway as a missionary priest - were those that were still to come. He entered Pime (Pontifical Institute for the Foreign Missions) in 1944 as a student and was ordained to the priesthood six years later, in 1952 he left for India. It was in a rural area, arid and stony, vast, densely populated with villages, with few Christians, in the dioceses of Warangal (in the state of Andhra Pradesh) where Father Colombo started his pastoral work. It was among the poorest and the emarginated, the pariahs or "dalit", the outcasts, where his hard tireless work of spreading the gospel, of bettering the human race and reforming the social and economic situation took place.
At the beginning of the sixties, he set up the "Lodi Society", financed by friends from Lodi and supported by American aid which programmed the shipment of a railway wagon per day loaded with food, basic medicines and agricultural tools to be distributed among the needy. With the principal of "food for work" (work in exchange for food) he set up a development project in 1973 in collaboration with a silk company from Como and built hundreds of small brick houses for the poor, dug wells and irrigation channels. In the following years he experimented with new techniques for growing rice, he increased agriculture and the growing of mulberry trees for the breeding of silk-worms, he set up courses in embroidery and Cantù lace for Indian women selling their products abroad.
But it was in the area of education that Father Colombo showed his caliber as an "alpinista".
Deeply convinced that only education, especially that of the poorest children, could demolish a way of life made up of poverty and slavery, Father Colombo proceeded with the training of catechists and the opening of the first rudimentary schools in the villages. The contribution in rice and money to the families formed a strong incentive to increase and guarantee the presence of their children. In the following years, overseas adoptions (currently approximately 4,000 children have adoptive parents) and the greater availability of funding, permitted an ever increasing number of children to study up to the tenth grade, in schools and in hostels which developed in the dioceses.
He could have paused, satisfied with himself and rested on his laurels, but Father Colombo forged ahead tirelessly creating in the nineties the first engineering faculty in the Institute of Technology and Science, built by himself, maintaining half the places free of charge for deserving outcast students. In the surrounding area the "Colombo Nagar" was founded, the "Colombo city", property of the dioceses which gave life to a second faculty, that of medicine, awaiting state recognition, in one of the most recently built hospitals in Warangal.
Aware that he was nearing the end of his life led Father Colombo to involve himself in looking after the lepers, the blind, the deaf-mute and the handicapped: he designed the leper column, he supported specialized schools and created Fatimanagar, with the aid of a group of eye specialists from Como, a centre for free cataract operations for the whole region.
A vocation for work, that of Father Augusto, who never placed the word of God, the Gospel message, pastoral activity in the villages and catechism for the younger people in second place.
A deeply rooted faith and enormous humility which constantly supported and guided him, so that his choices would not be the fruit of his own personal will, but of that greater imponderable will of He who had called him.
School for Children's aim is to help the greatest number of children possible, coming from backgrounds where they suffer from malnutrition, illness, abandonment, abuse or exploitation. These are mostly children who are outside their caste or tribe, without any education or any future opportunity. Thanks to your help so far we have been able to adopt:
59 in Mumbai (Maharashtra State)
423 in Khammam (Andhra Pradesh State)
306 in Warangal (Andhra Pradesh State)
From the day it was set up, School for Children has been able to count on numerous donations and ever-growing support in favour of its development projects. We are truly grateful and most appreciative of what you have already done and will do in the future. Our most sincere thanks.
This year, some of our supporters, have decided to give an added meaning to their Christmas by giving their dear ones, instead of a present, a donation in favour of the many micro-projects connected to our children.
Gopamma lives in the city of Khammam, to be exact in the village of Jastipally. Due to an inoperable deambulatory problem Gopamma could only move around if carried in her mother's arms or by her classmates. Now, thanks to the generous donations of some of our supporters, Gopamma can enjoy her own independence and the opportunity to spend time with other people: the bicycle chair she was given has changed her life.
The talent factory
One of the problems in India, in particular in the poorer states, can be seen in the psycho-physical health of the orphans or handicap bearers admitted to institutions. In India handicapped people are emarginated in society. The institutions offer the only possibility for their survival and for them to be welcomed as human beings. For this reason, School for Children, has turned its attention to the Mallikamba Institute which, today, hosts 169 children and adolescents suffering from quite serious to serious physical and or mental handicaps. Art, in all its forms, is the pivot around which the project rotates. Artistic expression is an unbeatable tool to know and enrich ourselves, expressing our personal human value, as well as developing or strengthening our capacity to face life's difficulties or traumatic events with a positive attitude, investing in emotional and social relationships.
To set up the project we require 130,000 euro. So far we have already collected approximately 60,000 (40,000 from the Child Priority Foundation)
The building of wells and purification equipment.
The difficult environmental context (drought and the presence of fluorine in the water-layers), as well as the extreme conditions of poverty in which the majority of the population in the Andhra Pradesh region survive, have led to the School for Children intervention in the building of manual wells and purification units capable of using one of the most developed filtering systems, "Reverse Osmosis Technology", capable of removing excess fluorine as well as minerals, bacteria and smells. Purified water at the cost of 1 rupee for 20 litres (compared to that of 10/15 rupees per 20 litres by the multinationals) is our objective.
Up to today 105,200 euro have been collected allowing the building of 124 manual wells and 18 purification units, the organization of an awareness campaign on themes linked to the correct use of water resources and illnesses relating to teeth and spinal columns arising from water contamination due to excessive fluorine.
May 19-20 "PHOTOGRAPHIC EXHIBITION"
This is one of the priority projects of the Milan South West Rotary Club. The project is based on the recognition of the vital importance of water, working in India on 40 villages in the district of Warangal and Khammam for a total of more than 15,000 people.
The aim of this project is to support Onlus School for children
- It facilitates access to drinking water
- It strengthens community relations by forming committees for maintenance and working
- It develops awareness on the themes linked to correct water use and thus to environmental themes.
Women's right to work
Women's access to the working world, just as their access to education, is still extremely limited in India. For this reason, School for Children, together with many projects aimed at the setting up of technical schools for training qualified male workers, has decided to develop a series of projects aimed specifically at women and their rights. Professional training, through sewing and material cutting courses, and the related setting up of cooperative groups will develop their economic independence and social recognition. In this way school for Children intend setting up training courses in sewing and material cutting in the centres of Shivaigudem, Mittapaly, Banjara and Eddula Bayyaram.
School responsibility project
The collaboration project between some Italian and Indian classes from kindergarten to highschools in Palazzago, Bergamo and Cinisello continues. The project which was set up in 2007 with the aim of making Italian students aware of the different reality in which people of their own age live in poverty stricken areas in the world is most successful. The Italian students are genuinely involved, even the youngest students, and have taken part by raising funds and organizing small market stalls which have permitted the purchase of scholastic material and sports equipment.
The school for children from tribes in Eddula Bayyaram.
Work is continuing on the building of the second storey for the school for children from tribes in Eddula Bayyaram, in the Khammam district. The school complex, when completed (the first storey was opened in March 2006) will host 400 students and will be a boarding school capable of providing board and lodgings, medical care as well as education facilities.
SFC School for Children - News
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