Association KAMAL KE DIL - "for the heart of the lotus"

A rubbish dump in the city


Information Fraternity in English version

Free medical care in Ramnagar (Varanasi)

Action : distribution of food if necessary, basic medical care, clothes…

Who : poor people living in train stations, on the streets, without a roof or income, without family, without work, suffering from malnutrition and untreated wounds, they do not live from begging, but look for food in the rubbish to survive, simple minded people, abandoned people…families in great need (due to health, money, or work problems), those who need emergency medical care (infected wounds, burns,…) and those who suffer as a result of abuse - children, elderly, workers.

Limited aid to help them from day to day, without pretending to offer solutions or a future, with a stress on human contact and concrete action (however limited).

The service in Benares is provided for relatively poor people, beggars or fishermen’s families, people who can’t afford to pay a doctor. It would be a regular presence, 4 to 5 days per week, near the Ramnagar Fort (palace of the Benares Maharaja) on the other side of the Ganges, in a small Hindu neighbourhood, but our goal is to extend it if the number of volunteers increases.

Volunteering : Volunteers are not paid. Volunteers who wish to join us are invited to write a letter of application, and should be ready to agree to work in harmony with the life proposed by the Fraternity, but taken on freely. A minimum time is expected, in order to provide a service of quality to the poor. No particular skills are required. The validation of nurse’s internship » or a commitment of only a few days, or the non willingness to participate in the spiritual reflection of the fraternity life are simply not in the spirit of our association! We hope that one day we could provide free housing for a greater number of people who want to serve the poor. For the moment this is not possible. However, there are several guest-houses at a very reasonable price (2 euros/night) in Benares.

Food distribution

Looking for something to eat

Fundraising : Donations or sales allow us to finance our work. The more money we receive, the more food we can give to a greater number of people), and the more we can help the volunteers to live and stay in Benares (housing, food, transportation costs). On this site you can buy a range of handmade Indian products and the profits go directly to the association for its work. At the same time the sales of the rosaries made in Benares provide a small income for local families.

What’s the budget ? When the association worked in Calcutta 50 to 100 people were helped everyday in the Howrah Station. Today in Benares, costs are essentially geared towards medical care and help to families. That is why the budget we need is so much bigger. For the moment, the budget is only made up of personal savings and the small budget of the association: that is why it is so limited. More money would help us to distribute one or two meals a day, to cure more people, and to help people in other neighbourhoods. The creation of a help center originally due to be completed in 2008 was delayed. However, the project is still on the track for 2009 if we can raise sufficient funds.

To give you an idea: 100 €uros per month can finance a light meal per day for 50 people. A blanket costs 2 €uros, a pair of trousers between 1 and 3 €uros, an antiseptic to disinfect 1.5 €uro, two samosas (triangular spring roll stuffed with vegetables) cost 3 rupees (= 0.05 €uros). These are only snacks but they are nevertheless greatly appreciated because it is often the only meal of the day. An egg costs 2.5 rupees (0.043 €uros)…etc.

Hands seeking the Providence

The lotus: offering of the fullness of God.

Where are they ? And who are they? They are mostly to be found in train stations (like the Howrah Station in Calcutta). They live in extreme poverty, alone; they are not willing to meet with others, to have a wash, or to beg. The reasons are varied and complicated: women abandoned by their husband, or widows separated from their own children, victims of rape or of violence inside the marital home, of Hindu hierarchical caste system, those who are unemployed, people with physical or psychological disabilities, non treated wounds, diseases (tuberculosis, leprosy, Aids). In India social security is non-existent. A person who loses everything has no opportunities left.

For the moment, we are working in Benares (Varanasi) (Uttar Pradesh state, but other cities can become the location of new services). (See the geographic location of Benares: map of India, small size- big size).The people we help are in Benares (more precisely in Ramnagar), and they essentially earn their living from work on the Ganges: fishermen, boatmen and people who work in the embroidery of saris. Hindu families are poor but they all have a roof and something to eat. The high cost of a visit to the doctor prevent people from going to see them to cure their wounds, and sometimes they live with open wounds, which otherwise would require hospitalization. Because of the lack of hygiene infections and transmissible diseases (scabies etc.) thrive. This laxity with basic hygiene is evident (they wash only with water, they spit and they live with open wounds for days or weeks). The people are very warm; they speak Bochpuri, a dialect of Hindi. Their lives are intertwined with the Ganges River.

Our goal : to respond instantly to the needs of these people at this time and not their long term welfare (because of lack of means and infrastructure). We have to be close to these people, because the other associations cannot take care of them for various reasons: it is not their charisma, they have to run their centers and have reintegration projects, and so cannot take care of people who cannot be reintegrated, or they don’t have time or the resources to walk through the streets to take care of the needy. We want to complement the work of other associations or religious congregations who are doing similar work in this field. We want to be there, because the task is so huge that there will be never enough people to reach out to all the needy. In Benares, we chose to go away from neighbourhoods where other associations are already working. We set up our project in the small town of Ramnagar Fort.

The silent cry of the poorest: the poorest among the poorest die because of the indifference of everybody. They are considered unredeemable or that it would be difficult for them to be reintegrated. Abandoned by all, they are worse off than the dogs and they choose often to switch off psychologically to survive. Men living naked on the rubbish dump, eating what others throw away, women lying for a long time under the tropical sun or out in the monsoon floods, not reacting much and open to the dangers of solitude and of the night (rape, violence). To reach out to these grains of dust of humanity is to touch the entire humanity in its soul. To forget them is to consider our existence as an accident of nature where each individual is meaningful only if it is useful.

A Fraternity of life : The volunteers can join the ‘Fraternity of the Cross of the Poor’. A rhythm of life of prayer, meditation, daily mass and adoration, is broken up with times of service to the poorest. The presence of the Fraternity at Benares allows for community life, organising retreats, finding harmony and a searching for that is more rooted in service. The Fraternity receives all the good wills, believers or not, for a sharing in the sense of service.

The Name : Kamal ke Dil, the ‘heart of the lotus’ signifies that heart hidden at the bottom of the vase of poverty which burst out and blossoms into one of the most beautiful flowers in the world. It is therefore the Hope which motivates our action and not our pity; it is love for these people which allows them to recover a sense of dignity. Yes we believe that the poor can blossom like the lotus that they can shine like the palm tree under the sun.

For the heart if these men and women keep hidden a treaure of life in them, for the heart of the lotus ….

English versionInformation Fraternity in english language.

In  the station at night

The lotus flower sprout through the vase to blossom

Leper on the gaths in Benares.


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crédits photos et textes : Patrick RANCOULE & KAMALKEDIL Association © tous droits réservés - 2009