October 3, 2012
Loaves and Fishes
Marianist ministries help families and children in the slums of India create a better life.
By Jan D. Judy
This is not the age of information …
Forget the news, and the radio, and the blurred screen.
This is the time of loaves and fishes.
People are hungry, and one good word is bread for a thousand.
– David Whyte, “Loaves and Fishes” from The House of Belonging
It is early morning in Ranchi, India. Marianist Brother Alex Toppo is about to begin his work day. He starts by carefully packing bread into a small backpack that he slings over his shoulders. Next he straps on a helmet, revs up his motorcycle and makes his way onto a crowded city street. Horns are blaring, dust is flying, and people are everywhere.
While others are taking out the morning trash, this man is on a different mission. In a city of more than a million people, he is looking for piles of garbage — some left beside the road or rotting on vacant lots. “That’s where we find them,” he says, referring to the children known in India as “ragpickers.”
“Sometimes I’ll find 10 or 12 children together picking through trash. They are scared and very distrusting — and they are always hungry. I usually offer them some bread. It’s one way I build trust and rapport,” says the program director of REDS in Ranchi. “But it takes a lot of time.”