A Letter from Recent Visitors

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Letter from Morningstar and SOJASI – October 2013

Dear friends of Father Abraham and his big family at Morningstar!

We (Clarence, David and I) just returned from 3 amazing weeks with Cecilia George and the Morningstar Home tribe of 21 children. This was our first visit to India, and what a visit it was!

We wanted to meet Shanti, who grew up at Morningstar (formerly Woodcot), as Clarence and I supported her through Nursing School over the last 3 years and graduated this year. Congratulations Shanti! It was SO wonderful to meet her and we are all so proud of her tremendous accomplishment.

We were embraced into the Morningstar fold like we were family and, simply put, it was one of the most heartwarming, energizing and rewarding experiences of our lives. :) The age range of the kids is from 6 to 20 years, with Sajan Simon Gurung being the eldest now and in his first year at the Salasian College nearby Kurseong. We stayed with the children in the large Morningstar house, financed by donors through the Canadian Jesuits International.

Our day at Morningstar would start with the most enthusiastic “Goodmorning miss! Goodmorning sah!” one could imagine, followed by help with homework, breakfast and waving goodbye to them all as they trundled off downhill to school in their spotless uniforms. We would then get to work with Cecilia, assessing needs for the day and for the Home. Clarence, Mr. Handy Man par excellence would go around and repair everything that needed repairing, much to Cecilia's delight and relief. Of the many needs for the Home was a toilet for the boys, who used a very decrepit public latrine hanging precariously over a cliff after the last monsoon rains.
Later in the day, the kids would return from school, study for 2 hours after tea and biscuits, and then gather all together for prayer time. This pause in the busy day of the Morningstar family, with quiet praying followed by singing and music, was balm for the weary soul. We bought another guitar in Kurseong to add to Morningstar's collection, and between musical instruments and a room full of beautiful voices, we had the Morningstar Choir and Music Ensemble - which performed at St. Paul's church one Sunday. We shared a few Canadian songs with the children, learned some of theirs and had great fun singing a Nepali version of “One Tin Soldier” after many hours of translation with Chogel Sherpa and Prabin Justin Singh! We played lots of games with the kids and found a Canadian pen pal for little Albu Lama.
Cecilia, Manager of Morningstar, is doing an outstanding job of picking up the torch of Father Abraham's life's passion – feeding, housing, educating and loving the poorest of the poor children. She carries directly the full responsibility for 21 children and their mountain of needs, She is Accountant, Organizer, Administrator, Builder, Provider, Mother, Teacher and Hostess to any donors who visit Morningstar. Then there is Nita, the ever-smiling energetic cook, who relentlessly provides nutritious and delicious meals for the Morningstar tribe most every day of the year, with Soona assisting. Given the strength of these formidable women, one would think that it was a piece of cake running Morningstar Home....But it definitely is NOT! And yet they accomplish this monumental task every day of the year with ready smiles and more love than you could imagine. The power of their love for the children is palpable, and joy, warmth and affection emanates from each of those wonderful kids.
Cecilia is also the Manager of SOJASI (Society of Jesus Agricultural and Sociocultural Institute), a 30 min drive away from Morningstar on the nastiest road ever! SOJASI is an offshoot of the work begun by Father Abraham with SASAC (Saint Alphonsus Social and Agricultural Centre), which folded following the 2008 Financial Crisis when the transfer of donor funds to India from the Canadian Jesuits Toronto office was frozen. Today's SOJASI consists of a large building, located high on a ridge above Kurseong, gardens for intensive vegetable production (a method pioneered by Fr. Abraham) and two remaining heifers which provide the compost. Within the building, there is a large oyster mushroom production room, a space for weavers (including a blind one!), a meeting hall and offices for the 9 full-time SOJASI staff. Everything produced at SOJASI is sold although one of its main functions is to provide employment and training for poor local villagers, many of whom live in homes built by Fr Abraham over the years. During the winter school break, school children from Morningstar and poor families nearby go to SOJASI to be trained in agriculture methods and other life skills. It is one of SOJASI's most rewarding programs: for the faithful staff who work there, it is pure joy to watch the children explode with pride and a sense of accomplishment when that first shoot appears or they learn to negotiate a computer!
And now.....we have returned to the comforts of our life,family and friends in Canada and would like very much to help keep Father Abraham`s legacy of Morningstar and SOJASI alive. One fun project we are completing includes a little book of photos of each child at Morningstar and a short resume of their passion and dreams. We hope to return someday to visit our friends there, and in the meantime perhaps our story will spark an interest for others to visit – Cecilia and Morningstar would welcome you with open arms!

So!!! SOJASI and Morningstar are alive and well but desperately need donors like us and you to keep these children fed, educated, housed and trained to earn a living so that they can support themselves and their families. Father Abraham always said it only took a small contribution from a large caring family of faithful donors to keep villages of children alive. Our journey began with the gift of Shanti in our lives, and it continued with a deepening of our faith in God and the power of prayer to bring Peace, Love and Joy into our hearts, which was Father Abraham's most fervent wish for all ....Who knows where the journey will take us now that we know the entire Morningstar family!

Donations to Morningstar and SOJASI can be made through the Canadian Jesuits International Att'n SOJASI, 70 Saint Mary Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 1J3.

PEACE, LOVE and JOY to each of you!!!

Gabrielle Savard, Clarence Kort and David Wong