Kalishavapuram, a village near Thirunelveli is where Father Iruthayaraj runs Rehabilitation of the Socially Afflicted, The Retarded and The Youth, known popularly as ROSARY Trust.
Belonging to a farmer’s family, he did his schooling at a government school from this very same village. During his childhood, he witnessed aged people, handicapped children and adults abandoned by their families and left on the streets. This made him rethink about his role as a Christian. He decided he would have to become a priest in order to serve these people.
Iruthayaraj enrolled into the Roman Catholic Church in Bangalore for his priest training and simultaneously studied to complete his Masters degree.
“I belong to a Dalit family. When I worked as a pastor, I felt I was a little separated from everyone else somehow due to my caste. Before leaving to join the order, during my school days, I brought home three old people whom I found on the streets. My parents never complained. My mother used to cook and serve them food. They slept outside as we didn’t have much space. That was my first experience,” says Fr. Iruthayaraj.
He came back to Kalishavapuram and used his father’s 1-acre piece of land to build a small home and a church with his savings from Bangalore. He then looked after his mother and the old people in the village. “When I started to approach people for funds, they advised me that I should register the home as a Trust before seeking funds. Some helped me do this and ROSARY Trust was registered in the year 1997,” adds Iruthayaraj.
There is now an old age house located in the same building which also hosts people who are mentally challenged and abandoned. Apart from this, there is a kitchen and a few rooms for severely challenged people.
“There are about 50 people living here altogether. I cannot expand this due to lack of sustained funding. People come through word of mouth. I have to, sometimes, turn my back to many since there is no space.”