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Catholic Institution Receives Government Award For Work Among Disabled


December 07 2007

The Karnataka state government has chosen a Church center as the southern state´s best institution for quality care of people with disabilities.

Governor Rameshwar Thakur presented the award on Dec. 3 to Sumanahalli center, a treatment and rehabilitation facility Bangalore archdiocese runs for people with Hansen´s disease, or leprosy.

The presentation was part of a government-organized function in the state capital of Bangalore, 2,060 kilometers south of New Delhi, to mark the International Day of Disabled Persons.

Nine individuals also received awards for their outstanding work for disabled people. Such functions have been organized annually for the past 10 years.

Claretian Father Joseph Thoompanal, Sumanahalli´s assistant director, accepted the center´s award of a citation and 25,000 rupees (US$625).

The citation recognizes the center´s "efforts to provide a dignified life to persons affected by leprosy and other disabilities" through treatment, education, training, job placement and housing.

While presenting the award, Thakur lauded Sumanahalli for 30 years of service and urged it to extend its services to more people.

The center has treated and rehabilitated more than 4,000 people affected by Hansen´s disease. Of some 300 people with various disabilities currently residing there, about 100 are Hansenites.

An orphanage and eight vocational training centers are attached to Sumanahalli. It also runs a school for children with disabilities and children of Hansenites. Other projects include treatment and rehabilitation of people with HIV/AIDS.

"Rehabilitation programs include education, vocational training, job placement, marriages and housing," said the center´s director, Father George Kannanthanam.

With the help of the state government, the Church center also manages an award-winning garment factory that employs 200 disabled people.

On the International Day of Disabled Persons in 2003, the federal government gave the center a national award as "best employer" of disabled people.

The name Sumanahalli means "village of good will" in the local Kannada language. The Church launched the project in 1977 at the request of Devaraj Urs, chief minister of Karnataka at the time, to help Bangalore´s increasing population of leprosy patients.

The project began on 24.3 hectares of land that the government leased to Bangalore archdiocese, which later asked the Claretian congregation to manage the site.

Father Kannanthanam, who has directed the center for more than a decade, told UCA News it enjoys good government patronage.

One person whom the center cured of Hansen´s disease, Pakkirappa, now heads a center-sponsored self-help group for disabled people. He told UCA News his group is excited about the award.

It is "literally an award given to each of us," he said. "We are proud of our home (Sumanahalli), which helped us not only overcome our disease, but also stand as dignified people in society."


(Accompanying photos available at here)