The relatives of a man were so much alarmed as he did not reach home even after two days of his expected arrival. A catholic priest, unrelated to this man in anyway, in scant hopes set out to search him, had the chance of finding him unconscious and abandoned in the local government hospital corridor.
A sane person would ask, who would go out in search of an unknown man just because one gets an SMS in phone telling a person is missing! While the general popular tendency is to get indifferent to such messages, some would go aghast for a moment and a few others would offer prayers for the missing individual!
Fr George Kavukatt was not a priest of that ilk. His phone often beeps with message alerts, which would include prayer requests, job requests, obituary and the like. As soon as he received the message that a man is missing somewhere between Goa and Mumbai while traveling in train, he went out in search only to find him lying unconscious in a local hospital veranda. His physical condition was very critical as his head had severe wounds infested with worms as he remained in the bushes along the Konkan railway track falling from train.
Fr. George, who is in his mid sixties, immediately started nursing him and gave him some water to drink. He did the necessary paperwork and organised professional nurses in the hospital for the care of Mr Antony, aged 44. He prepared food to feed him and organised Antony’s relatives to visit him and finally to take him to the specialist hospital in Goa which was a 4-hour ambulance journey from his place. The man was saved and joined the family back in Mumbai after a couple of weeks.
God has given a compassionate heart to Fr. George, nevertheless this is not the only such story in his life. He has been a man of service all throughout his life. To many he is an “angel who saved their life.” He is a “real father” for some other abandoned children whom he rescued either from slums, or nearby railway tracks or the garbage heap. Today under his protection at least five orphan children of different ages are building their lives in various care homes across the country where they have their study and happy life. More than hundred children and young people, some of whom were at the verge of ending their life, have received personal support from Fr. George to survive.
Fr. George recalls that he was inspired to have a compassionate heart by Bp. Mar Mathew Kavukatt, his grant uncle who was the Metropolitan of the Archdiocese of Changanachery. Fr. George was always a pastor of the sheep and a zealous missionary for the people.
Previously he has dedicated 15 years (1995-2010) of his life for the empowerment of absolutely neglected tribal people in Maharashtra’s Thane district. Under the aegis of Deenabandu Charitable Trust, founded by Fr. George the tribal community learned sustainable and feasible living through agro-based programmes.
Fr George found these villagers deprived of both nutrition and education. They were poor and starving to death. In order to abolish poverty and fight hunger he designed and initiated a system of Agro Based Education Programme at the twin villages of Lobhipada and Pondyachapada, located three kilometers from Asangaon station. The idea was to develop vast expanses of wasteland into cultivable land.
“This programme has changed the face of the tribal belt in Shahpur,” recalls Fr. George with a sense of fulfilment. “Local people at that time used to cultivate paddy on a very small scale. When there was vast expanses of land yet to be cultivated, tribal youth were spending their time hunting, fishing and roaming around in the forests aimlessly.” So he founded Krishi Vidya Kendra at Lobhipada. The students attended school between 11 am and 4 pm after which they ware taught viable and sustainable methods of cultivation. Many children from the tribal village has passed 10th and 12th now.
Today Varachapada boasts of Prerna, a co-operative movement with six members, which not just cultivates their own lands but also get other’s land in leases for farming. “Till a few years ago we used to travel several miles everyday in search of work. Often we came back empty handed. But now we provide employment to all men in our own as well as neighbouring villages,” says Ashok Wagh, another Prerna member. Further he formed a 13-member Prerna Adivasi Mahila Sahkari Samiti And appointed Hasibai Jettu Lobhi, a tribal women as chairperson of the Samiti to manage the programme.
Probably, inspired by these missionary qualities of Fr. George the Superiors of the Missionary Society of St Thomas the Apostle (MST), in which he is a member priest, has entrusted him to develop a new mission region in Maharashtra 25 years ago. Under the visionary directorial of Fr George, Sangli mission designed and developed a mission policy of integral development of people especially the week and the neglected ones. The education institutions of the Region, which was a daring initiative of Fr. George, not only support these programmes but also carry forward the compassion of Christ to as many young people of the locality.
Fr. George is now living in a small house and looks after Theresa Welfare Centre in Oros, Sindhudurg. He still continues his mission of serving people from the income he gets from a small farm he has developed from hard wasteland. He is happy not only because he can visit the marginalised and weaker sections of the society around but also because he supplies milk, fruits and other yield from his farm which is produced without the use of chemical fertilisers. This promises a healthy and spiritual society.
At a very peaceful phase of his life today he looks back to his life with gratitude to the Almighty. He is satisfied that most of the people whom he had supported is pursuing his legacy. The tribal people in Varachapada who at a time did not have enough money to buy two kilo rice to feed their families donate over seven tonnes of vegetables and five tonnes of tapioca every year to the underprivileged people around. Many individuals who found a meaningful and successful life with the support of Fr. George are helping many others building a big network of people driven by philanthropic motives. Fr George is convinced that this is the way God works His mission and he is happy that God selected him for this mission.
Fr George Kavukatt,
Teresa Welfare Centre,
Oros, Dabachivady, P.O. Anav, Kudal Tk,
Sindhudurg Dt – 416812, Maharashtra, India