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Naipunya’s modern, tastefully decorated offices, glossy, colorful brochures and sophisticated web site exude corporate professionalism. Yet, the agency belongs to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and its leadership remains committed to providing affordable career services to Kerala’s poor.

“I am not rich myself,” said Father Jose. “I do not earn a salary from my work at Naipunya, but survive on my humble priest’s stipend. Even the office clerk earns more than I do.”

Successfully placed professionals agree to pay Naipunya International between 8 and 16 percent of their first year’s earnings. These earnings pay the agency’s operating costs. What remains is reinvested in the agency, specifically its two burgeoning programs: Naipunya Academy and Talent Track.

Whereas Naipunya International links jobseekers with private-sector employers, the academy prepares advanced students who wish to pursue careers in India’s civil service. Open to students who already hold college and graduate degrees, the academy also requires applicants to take an entrance exam and personality test. Aimed at readying students for civil service exams, the academy’s program follows a demanding curriculum and offers a wide range of courses from public administration and international relations to economics and sociology.

Talent Track works with local priests to nurture children from disadvantaged backgrounds demonstrating promise. With assistance from Naipunya International, parish priests closely supervise the selected children’s education and development. With counseling and through extracurricular classes and workshops, participants explore a wide range of careers and often receive higher education, the cost of which various charities pay. Through Talent Track, poor but capable young Keralites have the opportunity they would not have otherwise to make something of their lives.

“What we are doing is ’backward’ integration,” said the priest. “People need sustainability, and integrating people who are economically ’backward’ means making them sustainable,” the priest added, explaining how the program contributes to the development of the region.

“You can provide food, shelter and clothes as basic needs. But I believe that modern life demands more than mere survival. The process demands the provision of something more than the fulfillment of basic needs.”

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CNEWA staffer Jomi Thomas and Sean Sprague are frequent contributors to ONE.

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Tags: India Kerala Village life Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Emigration