More than one-third of the malnourished children in the entire world live in India. Eighty percent of the population of India earns less than two dollars per day. The infant mortality rate is at sixty-eight percent. Fortunately, Abode for Children has been instrumental in providing a light in the darkness, a beacon of hope in the village of Cherukupalli in southeastern India.
St. Thomas the Apostle Orphanage and Mary Rose Buds School were built in response to the 2004 tsunami in India. Bishop Gali Bali of the Diocese of Guntur had sent out a plea for help to Thomas Rutkoski. The bishop had heard of Thomas’ work in Nigeria and was hopeful that he could assist India in its need as well. Thomas was uncertain, due to the enormity of the need, but he told Bishop Gali to pray that funds would come through.
Miraculously, generous donors presented themselves and groundbreaking began in 2006 for both an orphanage and a school. St. Thomas Orphanage and Mary Rose Buds School were ready the very next year and were dedicated with a joyful and colorful village-wide parade and ceremony. The motto “Strive to Excel for Service” displayed on the front of the school and is lived fully at St. Thomas Orphanage and Mary Rose Buds School each and every day.
The campus includes a boy’s orphanage with kitchen, a school, a rectory, a convent, and a church. The 80 boys who live at St. Thomas come from very poor families and would otherwise be forced to work alongside their parents on farms and in factories doing hard manual labor. Some would be left alone on the streets to beg and be in constant danger of being maltreated.
Most of the children who stay at St. Thomas Orphanage may have both parents, however, these children have been hand selected as a child at risk and in dire poverty, in order to be permitted to come to St. Thomas to receive necessary care, such as food, clothing, and a life-changing education. Children come to St. Thomas illiterate with little hope and are given respect and a sense of dignity while they are educated and given a new lease on life. The smiles on these boys show that they now have hope. A girls’ orphanage is in the construction stage and is planned to open in June, 2014 to allow girls a chance to be educated and make it possible for them to have a new, hopeful, outlook on life. Girls are routinely treated as second-class citizens and are not always educated within the Indian culture.
Mary Rose Buds School, which opened in June, 2007, is designed to educate the boys at St. Thomas the Apostle Orphanage as well as the children from the local villages. The school can accommodate up to six hundred (600) students from kindergarten to tenth standard (or tenth grade). The school year begins June and ends in April. The state of the art school building has twenty-four rooms; twelve as classrooms and six as offices, a library, a science lab and a computer lab. Subjects include Math, Reading, English, Computer, Library, Religion, Science and Lab.
Mary Rose Buds School teachers and administrators are from The Congregation Of The Sisters Of St.Charles Borromeo. The presence and the involvement of the sisters in the school have a great impact on the children and the lay staff. Their self-sacrificing spirit and dedication for the cause of the poor has a tremendous witness value to both Christians and non-Christians.
The classes within the school are always taught in English, with Hindi and Telegu as a second language. The school has become a model of education within the community. Bishop Gali Bali reported, “We are taking every care to maintain good standards of education with moral and spiritual values and discipline of conduct. There is a general appreciation of the entire people for the school.”
On April 10, 2011, Our Lady of Grace, the parish church, was inaugurated with some 4000 people of all walks of faith on hand to celebrate.
“All that has been done and achieved at Cherukupalli is indeed a special blessing of the Lord. The school along with the orphanage is a source of development promoting literacy of the people in this backward area.”
— Bishop Gali Bali, 2011