India: nun wins major award for services to the disabled

 Sister Merly Tom Kizhakayil, a member of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians, has won India's national award for distinguished service to disabled persons. The award was presented by President Abdul Kalam, who praised the work of Catholic communities all over the country, caring for the most disadvantaged people. Sr Merly trained at the National Institute for the Deaf in Mumbai, after which she served as Director of Cathleen College Shillong, the first educational centre for the hearing impaired in Meghalaya. Realising that the majority of deaf children who came to the centre were seven or older, she felt the need to start an intervention programme for younger children to prevent them from becoming disabled. This led to the founding of Ferrando Speech and Hearing Centre at Baranpani near Shillong. The centre provides children with hearing and speech disabilities primary education with the same syllabus as mainstream school pupils. This award is very significant given the rise in recent years of attacks on churches, schools and other Christian establishments by Hindu extremists. Ten years ago a Poor Clare, Sister Maria Rani, was killed in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The diocese of Indore has opened the diocesan stage of her beatification. Source: Fides

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