The Madonna Missions is a committed group of people who partner with Save A Family Plan to carry on the work of the late Father Richard Saldanha. Their generous support is helping to promote education and infrastructure development in a rural area of Shillong in the north-east of India. Mr. Jack Geerts, Chair of the Madonna Missions Committee, shares his experience of meet with a young man who is benefitting from this support.
I first came to know of Anthony Lyngkhoi five years ago when a group of us travelled with Father Richard to the remote village of Kynrut in the West Khasi Hills of the state of Meghalaya. He attended the school there, built and run by the Visitation Sisters. He had already been singled out as being an exceedingly bright student who would relish the opportunity to somehow continue to further his education. Through the support of the Madonna Missions fundraising initiatives in Canada, Anthony’s dream is being realized. He is now in his second year at Shillong College taking commerce and doing very well.
In November 2013, he heard that I was visiting Shillong and came especially to see me. I found him to be a polite, sincere, soft-spoken young man who had now mastered the English language remarkably well as we sat and talked on a warm Sunday afternoon. He calmly spoke about his parents, the recent loss of one of his younger siblings and the affect it had on them. He also told me that during the school holiday, to make extra money to support his family, he worked in the coal mines. They are known as “rat holes” because they are very shallow in height, 10 feet or so deep, and highly prone to collapse. All the labour is manual with pick and shovel. He told of up to 300 people walking in two lines, one going in, one going out, a half an hour walk each way, carrying coal on their backs in large cone shaped baskets in pitch dark and dangerous coal dust with only small lights on their heads. A day’s pay was 300 rupees or about $5.00 Canadian. At first he said he was very frightened, reminded of news stories of people killed from collapses but he was able to eventually put it out of his mind.
As I sat and listened incredulously, I was taken by the way he quietly and matter-of-factly related this story to me, certainly not trying to evoke any pity on my part. I came away from our meeting incredibly impressed with this brave and determined young man. Also, there came a feeling of comfort and relief knowing that Anthony’s education will lead him to opportunities of a much better existence he would never have realized before. After one of the Madonna Convent Sisters had taken our picture, Anthony embraced me warmly saying how very much he appreciated our support and the gift of a better life.
A big thank you to Jack for sharing this story with us.