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After Kerala floods, Indian nuns worked to prevent farmers’ suicide

Philomena Antony, a member of Pappachan’s village council, said members approached Sister Mathew for help after desperation among the farmers became alarming. The council wanted the nun’s team to prevent the village from having to report another farmer’s suicide.

Sister Mathew said flooding is not the only reason the farmers are distressed. They also suffer from alcohol dependence, chronic illness, family conflicts, marital disharmony and poor self-image because of poverty.

Church volunteers in other parts of Kerala tell similar stories.

Sister Selma George, who works among flood victims in Changanacherry, a central Kerala region, said they struggle to give “a new lease on life” to the flood survivors.

Kuttanad, a low-lying region under the Changanacherry Archdiocese that is considered the rice bowl of Kerala, experienced floods three times this year.

So, the church’s immediate focus was to provide victims food and shelter, said Sister George, a member of the Missionary Sisters of Queen of the Apostles. “But we also found that they needed mental and psychological support as most have no desire to live,” she said.

Rosalie Antony, a widow who underwent counseling, described Sister George and her volunteer team as angels who helped when everything appeared lost.

“They cleaned our house and made it ready for us to move in. They provided us food and medicine and assured their support for us,” said Antony, who works as a maid in several houses to feed her two adult daughters.

Sister George and her team spent time with the family and counseled them individually and collectively.

“Sister told me to live for my children. Until now we were alone; now we have become part of a larger family,” Antony added.

Sacred Heart Sister Treesa Palackal, a clinical psychologist, traveled from northern Kerala with 60 trained counselors and psychotherapists to work among those affected by floods in the Ernakulam District. They counseled thousands individually and in groups.

“Counseling and psychotherapy help the flood-hit people overcome their traumatic experiences during floods,” she said.

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Thomas is a freelance journalist based in Bhopal, a central Indian city. This article is part of a collaboration between Global Sisters Report and Matters India, a news portal that focuses on religious and social issues in India.

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