The 1st "True Life in God" Primary School is complete! Alleluia!
In an effort to alleviate the poverty and suffering in Bangladesh, True Life in God finishes the expansion of the school in Kulun village taking head on the tremendous illiteracy rate there.
Three years ago, on Friday, April 30, 2004 we received an email from Carmen and Javier Pelayo from the TLIG in Mexico, informing us "
Mrs. Liduvina Olivares de GarcÃa from Juventino Rosas, Guanajuato, Mexico, who is a rural teacher, took all her savings and wanted to give them for the more poor as a donation to the Beth Myriam in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Mrs. Liduvina has a prayer group with 160 children." (April 30, 2004)
The only thing Mrs. Liduvina was asking in that email was prayers for her son Arturo that would be undergoing a brain surgery that May 5th. (Mrs. Liduvina is one of the fruits of the 2nd Latin American Retreat in Mexico.)
As we were caught by surprise by the big donation, our reply of gratitude to Mrs. Liduvina through Carmen and Javier reassured her. "
We're sure Jesus and Mary will show us how to facilitate the life of our poor people with this extra blessing They are sending us through you! (January 5, 2004)
As Mrs. Liduvina had no email, our communication continued through Carmen and Javier.
"Please pass on to Mrs. Liduvina our warmest thanks and deep appreciation for her act of powerful love, shown with such an altruistic and noble manner! She reminds us so strongly of the poverty-stricken widow in the Gospel who gave her last 2 small coins in donation to the Temple along with the rich men and Jesus said about her: "this poor widow has put in more money than any of you (rich men); for these have all put in money they could spare, but she in her poverty has put in all she had to live on". (Luke 21:1-4) Many blessings accompany the people that act this way, teaching the rest of us to be more real in our love. May our Merciful Lord Jesus Christ answer her motherly prayers for her son Arturo, restore his health and bless them with all the gifts and charisms of His Holy Spirit, keeping them always safe in His Sacred Heart!" (May 12, 2004)
We needed to pray and ask Jesus and Mary what would They want us to do: the sum was do big to spend it only for offering lunch to the needy at the Beth Myriam in Dhaka. It would be good to invest it in something that would stay on - maybe it was time to extend the 3-classroom school in Kulun village that we built in 2000 and was facilitating the children of that village but of the near-by ones as well. That initial school was built after visiting Kulun in July 2000 and saw it was lacking a school for the children of the village.
Actually, that was what we were inspired to do during prayer. We wrote back to Carmen and Javier to inform Mrs. Liduvina about it.
"We need the approval of Mrs. Liduvina to execute the following project: as you know, we are in a very needy country where poverty, illiteracy (~90%) and unemployment are the major factors that people suffer from here. With the Beth Myriam in Dhaka we try and alleviate the poverty and illiteracy level of 901 people from the near-by slums daily, as we provide for them lunch at noon and education for 30-352 children. We have also built in a village (that still has no electricity!) a 3-classroom school for the younger students that were forced to walk 3Kms to the nearest mission to attend classes.
The reply came immediately from Mexico
"We read your e-mail to Liduvina by phone, and she is so pleased that you had this inspiration to enlarge the school. In Mexico City during the Retreat3 she told us that she would like to donate this money to build a school. So, this is to confirm you her agreement. She will like you to name each room with her late daughter MARTHA (43, she founded a blind school in her area, died by crash), her late son RAFAEL (21 he had a crash too) and her late husband JOSE, if it is possible. She says, any prayer these children will make, will reach our Lord's Heart for their soul." (May 13, 2004)
Dumbfounded! That's how we were when we read the reply. It was not that we ever doubted, but of unexpressed surprise of His love! We do believe that Jesus hears our prayers and gives His advise to anyone who asks for it, but to receive the word in such detail and in accordance to His Will, it leaves us speechless every single time! One more proof that He IS with all of us every moment of our life and takes care of all our needs.
Our joy was completed when we received an additional email from Carmen.
"So sorry, I forgot to tell you that Arturo4 came out of the surgery very well, he recovers very fast. He did not need to stay not even an hour in intensive care. He is at home now and specking with a partial face paralysis that soon will recover.
As the monsoon season5 was approaching fast, it was limiting us to start with the extension project of the school. It took about a year and a half before it took off. When we started, the blessing of our Lord was obvious as we saw that even the exchange currency was on our benefit; we were gaining extra money for the construction based on the sum of the donation.
The school construction
The construction mechanic that we consulted said that the foundations of the initial school were not strong enough to support a second floor on top. As there was no other land offered to TLIG as this was that we could use to build a school in the village, we decided to tear down the first 3-classrooms and start anew: an entire new 2-floor school with strong foundations, 6 roomy classrooms and even complete electric installation - although the village still has no current. Of course this meant much more money was needed but Duleep offered to cover the rest of the expenses.
It took a lot of efforts to build the school, not only from the construction crew that some days per week were staying in the village overnight, but also from the residents of the village: the building materials had to be brought to the village from the city by riverboats, as there are no roads to connect it. Especially when the river water rises during the monsoon season, where the rivulets become wide rivers.
The construction was completed by the end of 2006 - just in time to have the inauguration and cutting of the red ribbon by our special guest, Vassula that was expected to spend some days in Dhaka. Everyone was very happy with the new attainment. Even the priest of the Modhbari Mission, Fr. Elias Palmer, said about it, "it's so nice, I wonder if we could use it for any Church function", even though the Church is right next door to the new school.
On 6th January 2007, the great day of the Epiphany, everything was prepared for the inauguration of the school. Vassula arrived in Kulun with Duleep, Sujit6 , Siddiqur7 and myself. The residents of Kulun welcomed Vassula and the group with a dance, singing hymns of Christmas and Epiphany and led her to Xavier Pereira's8 village house.
It was there where representatives of TLIG prayer groups from other areas9 met with Vassula. She had an opportunity to talk with them for some time and asked them about their TLIG prayer groups. They were all so glad, expressed their joy for the blessing they had to meet Vassula personally, invited her to visit their areas as well and left with their spirit uplifted and with a renewed enthusiasm.
As soon as Fr. Elias arrived from the Mission house, he celebrated a Holy Mass honouring the Feast day of the Epiphany and said a blessing for the opening of the new school. At our exit from the church and to honour the inauguration of the school by their presence, the wife of a Parliament Member, Mrs. Ruby Chowdhury, with a group of representatives of political associations, Mr. Nabi Hossain10 , Mr. Habibur Rahman11 , Mr. Sirajul Mollah12 , Mr. Imtiaz Miah13 and others came to meet Vassula. Mrs. Chowdhury passed on to Vassula her husband's profound gratefulness for caring for his people so much as to build a school for their children.
All were led to the new school - around the corner from the church.
The red ribbon was tied with big bows and was waiting to be cut. After all gathered, Vassula was given the scissors and she cut the ribbon thus opening officially the new TLIG school. All applauded filled with appreciation and joy.
In order to honour Mrs. Chowdhury for her presence there and her husband14 , she was given the scissors to cut the red ribbon of one of the classes as well.
After the enthusiasm had quieted down a bit, with Duleep we accompanied Vassula, Mrs. Chowdhury and Sujit to the 3 ground floor classrooms where at each entrance a marble plate had engraved on it the names of Mrs. Liduvina's husband's and children's names as promised.
Later we went to the second floor to look at the other 3 classrooms - one has also Vassula's name in a marble plate - and Mrs. Chowdhury, impressed with the whole project, wished we continue the altruistic work of love and expand even to a College. (2 photos)
Down stairs, Fr. Elias was waiting to congratulate once more Vassula and the rest.
A small function was prepared after that to give a word of thanks to Vassula, Mrs. Liduvina and the ones involved completing this project. Mrs. Chowdhury also thanked Vassula for her inspired motivation towards others to do good works.
Before leaving the village we took a photo to remember in front of the school with Vassula. May more schools be built to grant hundreds of children education in all needy countries around the world.
Two months later, in March 2007, we were invited to visit Kulun again for another special occasion: 4 students of our humble TLIG school -still without electric current!- had received government scholarships to continue with their studies. We arrived in Kulun with Stefania Restivo, a very good friend from Italy that was visiting us for a couple of weeks.
A program with a number of athletic events for the 3 first classes was prepared that we all enjoyed.
Later, once all the teachers and the children of the 1st TLIG Primary School gathered, in a very simple and informal ceremony, I was truly honoured when asked to give out the scholarships to the 1 boy and 3 girls. But to all of the rest of the children15 we gave a token, so all would be happy.
There are no words to describe the joy of everyone involved so this school project could take off and be completed, accompanied by so many blessings! There are no words to thank our Jesus Who never lets down anyone! And there are no words to thank as well Mrs. Liduvina that motivated and encouraged us financially to expand the initial school so more children may receive education and be close to their families and village as well.
May our Good Lord Jesus and His Loving Mother Mary bless, guide, inspire and protect all of us for His glory!
1 In 2004, 90 needy people from the near-by slums were receiving a warm lunch daily. Today they are 100.