As Indian students enter the stressful season of exams, Father Benny Mundanatt’s mobile and landline phones keep on ringing. As exam fear and tension runs high among children, they have a friend in need to look up to. Father Benny, a priest from the diocese of Thamarassery, began Emmanuel Helpline in 2007. The priest’s telephone counseling service in the southern Indian state of Kerala has helped some 7,000 students get rid of exam fear and gain confidence. Father Mundanatt started the helpline with four others, including two nuns. “I could not have written the exam well if I had not called up Father Mundanatt,” said Abi Kuthukallel, a class ten student from Kozhikode. Kuthukallel said he gained confidence after the priest counseled him and prayed for him. Sherin Jospeh Ettiyil, a computer student, said she used to call Bennyachan (Father Benny) whenever she had a problem, academic or personal, as his prayers and advise were really helpful. Father Mundanatt, a former catechism director of the diocese, said the idea for the helpline emerged following a retreat organized for the students of the diocese. “I realized that the children needed support to cope with the academic pressure,” the priest said. “We have given our phone numbers to children and they are free to call us whenever they are in need,” he said. Father Mundanatt said Emmanuel Helpline is a “spiritual reality as we do not have any official space.” “We answer children’s calls round the clock no matter where we are,” he added. “Children call at any time and demand answers on the spot. We can’t ask them to call after sometime. It is a round the clock mission,” Father Mundanatt said. Shaji Kandathil, a member of the team, said, “Over the past four years, I understood that children need special help to cope with pressures during exam time. A little help will go a long way in preventing them take a wrong path.” ID13895.1648
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