Some nuns who run two hostels for riot-affected girls of Kandhamal say they want to provide education and shelter for more people, but fund scarcity hinders them.
“There is so much to be done to help children in Kandhamal,” says Sister Cletus, who coordinates two hostels in Sambalpur and Kantabanji, places some 300 kilometers away from Kandhamal, a tribal dominated district in Orissa state.
The situation of the girls was “pathetic” when the nuns visited the area following the riots, recalled Sister Cletus, a member of the Society of Jesus, Mary and Joseph congregation. “They had no schools, no houses and no one to seek help,” she added.
Kandhamal was the focus of a seven-week-long anti-Christian violence in 2008 that killed some 90 people and displaced 50,000, mostly Christians. Rioting Hindu mobs raped women, killed men and burned down houses, convents and churches.
“Thousands of girls continue without education. They were forced to abandon education at various stages of schooling,” the nun said. “If there was adequate funding” at least senior dropped out girls could have been given “some job oriented education.”
The two hostels care for some 45 girls, who attend a government school. “We had actually no hostels. But brought the girls away” in 2009 April and made arrangements for their studies “out of necessity,” the nun said.
The nun said they fund the girls from a hospital they manage in Sambalpur. The Conference of Religious India sponsored 30 cots. The students walk four kilometers to school every day. “We would be happy if some buys them bi-cycles,” the nun said.
When reminded that millions rupees have been collected from across the world for providing aid for the victims, the nun said collected funds are for building homes and providing rehabilitation. “Not for education. That is what I was told. And funds can used only for the purpose they have been collected,” she said.
Besides finances, another problem in managing the girls is the psychological problems of the girls. “All of them are traumatized,” she said adding several have been attacked or seen their family being attacked.
“They have a sought of mob-phobia. Whenever they see people come together, they panic,” she said narrating how the nuns counseled them to “get out of the fear” for people.