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Nurturing girls and boys

Isabel, a hearing impaired girl barely into her teens, capsule needles fabric to learn the art of embroidery, embossing a design on a piece of cloth, which a few days later will perhaps find its way to the dining table of a home in Goa or elsewhere.

Isabel spends her days at the St Francis Xavier training-cum-production Centre at Old Goa.

Dozens of boys and girls and even a few adults, some disabled like Isabel and others with no disability, are trained in various technical skills at the Centre, run by Caritas Goa.

The centre deliberately puts the two groups of children together to provide them equal opportunities and take forward its ‘reverse inclusion’ concept.

Trainees at the centre, disabled or not, are imparted technical skills in tailoring and embroidery, fibre work, animal husbandry including piggery, poultry and dairy, candle making, carpentry and welding.

Caritas Goa is part of Caritas International, the Roman Catholic Church’s social action arm.

In Goa it also runs an academic school at the centre where formal education classes are held for the hearing impaired, orthopedically handicapped, mentally challenged and children with learning disabilities. The school, run by the Diocesan Society of Education, also has a higher secondary section affiliated to the Goa Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education.

To overcome difficulties faced by differently-abled children in pursuing higher studies in rigorous subjects prescribed by general curriculum, the school took accreditation from the National Open School, which offers a wider choice of subjects to suit their abilities.

The school was also thrown open to general category students, who otherwise would have dropped out from academics.

Prison ministry

Caritas manages a large group of people, both lay and religious, who reach out to inmates of various jails in Goa.

On securing permission from the jail authorities, volunteers of the prison ministry visit jails and counsel prisoners, conduct inter-religious prayer services and hold classes in literacy, art-craft and music.

The prison ministry program also facilitates under-trials and convicts serving jail terms to continue their academic pursuits by collaborating with the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) and other open universities.

On special occasions like Independence day (August 15), Republic day (January 26), Gandhi Jayanti (October 2), Christmas and Diwali, the prisoners are also provided with their share of fun through drama and music contests and sports.

The prisoners’ families are also visited and their children helped in academic and other needs. The family members are counselled, and whenever possible, they are united with their families.

In some ideal cases, a prisoner-victim reconciliation is worked on.

The prison ministry unit of Caritas Goa also assists in the rehabilitation of prisoners who have served their term. All this is done in close collaboration and with the consent of government authorities.


Caritas Goa manages a care home for children living with HIV/AIDS which it started at Tivim, a village in Goa’s hinterland, in 2002. Called ASRO (which in Konkani means hope) the home currently has 28 children who are being cared for by the Sisters of the Mercy of the Holy Cross.

ASRO was started as a private initiative by Dr Philomena D’Souza, the former head of the paediatric department at Goa Medical College. Dr Philomena started the work at her own ancestral home and eventually handed over its management to Caritas in 2002.

At ASRO, the children are treated and given nutritional support. They are also given home nursing care and terminal care. There’s no doomsday atmosphere at Asro. The HIV/AIDS infected kids are provided opportunities to train in skills and gain self-confidence.

Father Maverick Fernandes, directo of Caritas Goa, explains that the children at Asro face many challenges concerning their education, relationships, health and societal acceptance.

“But the journey has been refreshing, to view the positive effort of the children,”said Fr Maverick.

Caritas also runs another ‘Community Care Centre’ by the same name ASRO at Cavelossim. It is a collaborative effort with the Franciscan Sisters of Christ the King and is funded up to 80 percent by the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO).

The centre cares for the HIV infected, gives palliative care to AIDS patients and provides value-based education for the prevention of HIV infection.The centre also provides support and trains family members how to care for loved ones infected by the disease.

Caritas Goa manages St Bridget’s Institute at Aldona village which conducts home science courses, a home nursing certificate course and runs home nursing services.

It also manages a physio-therapy centre at the Caritas Holiday Home in Panjim and a Childline service for North Goa, affiliated to the Childline India Foundation.

To help Caritas Goa either with donations or volunteer services you may contact its director, Fr Maverick Fernandes, at Institute Piedade, DB Marg, Panjim. Tel No. +918322422821