A Dream Finally Realized
In 1978, Fr. Nicholapillai Arulnesan, O.M.I. bought 50 acres of land in Iyakachchi, Sri Lanka. He had a dream of creating a goat farm that would benefit people in the community. But because of civil war, Fr. Arulnesan never saw his dream realized before his death in 2006.
Last year, the Missionary Oblates were able to finally complete a transformation of the land into a place to help local residents. They named it “Nesakkarangal” a variation of Fr. Arulnesan’s first name. There are no goats, yet, but people of all ages are being helped by several outreach ministries of the Oblates.
The land had been occupied by the Government during the long Sri Lankan civil war. With a precarious peace in place, the Oblates were able last year to regain ownership of the property. A charity from Scotland came to clear landmines from the land before construction of several buildings could begin.
Today, the site is being used for community betterment programs. Abut 900 families, mostly Hindus from Iyakachchi and neighboring villages, are benefiting from the programs which include:
• Education classes for more than 130 students, from grades one to eight. The school is subsidized by local contributions from friends and benefactors. Four classrooms were recently built and the Oblates are hoping to expand in the near future.
• War widows are being helped with “livelihood projects.” Some of the widows have received assistance with raising cows and chickens. Others have been helped to create small businesses.
• Girls are being provided sewing classes. The three-month courses are taught by the National Youth Association which provides the teachers and sewing machines.
The Oblates in Sri Lanka say the educational components of Nesakkarangal are a fitting tribute to Fr. Arulnesan. Father Arulnesan was the rector of St. Anthony College and St. Patrick’s College in Sri Lanka. He was instrumental in transforming the schools from places for the elite to schools that were accessible to common people, including changing the language of instruction from English to the native Tamil.
Until his death at the age of 93, Fr. Arulnesan was always a champion of the underprivileged. Well into his 80s, he was working with Sri Lankan migrant workers in the United Arab Emirates to make sure they were receiving basic human rights.
Original story & images provided by Mike Viola at Missionary Associates of Mary Immaculate.