Stories From India

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.”

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It Takes a Village: Lessons in Rural Empowerment

Through the Chaminade Rural Development Project, the Marianists are helping a tribal group in rural India create a healthy future.

By Jan D. Dixon

Every weekday morning, Jyoti Soy, a third-grade teacher, catches a ride from her home on the outskirts of Ranchi — a city in north central India — to the village of Binda. It is a jarring commute along narrow country roads that takes more than an hour. While most people leave their village in India for work in the city, Jyoti is willing to make the trek back to her home village for two reasons: She loves teaching and since the Marianists took charge of the Roro Binda Upper Primary School where she works, she has witnessed an enormous change.

“Since the Marianists arrived, we have more teachers, many more students, better equipment and a brand-new school,” she says. When Jyoti started teaching in 1992, there were 20 students. By the time the Marianists took over in 2007, the student body had dwindled to seven. Today, the school boasts an enrollment of 350 children in grades one through five and will add a middle school next year. In 2010, the Marianists completed construction of a new school and a residence hall for students who live too far to commute.

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Breaking the Cycle of Poverty: The Marianists in India

For more than 30 years, the Marianists have been helping some of the world’s most vulnerable people create a better life through education.

By Jan D. Dixon

In March 1979, after hours of agonizing discussions, a group of Marianists gathered for prayer in a chapel in St. Louis. The question that brought them to their knees: Was God calling them to serve in India? Mission work in other parts of the world also begged for attention, and if the answer to go to India was “yes,” it would mean an enormous financial and personal commitment. It also would require a leap of faith.

There were many reasons to say “no.” But one fact stood above the rest: India is home to one-third of the poorest people on the planet.

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