Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil, SDB, of Guwahati (Assam), North-East India, was in Melbourne between 24 and 31 August to thank those who have supported development projects in his archdiocese. He gave the following account of his archdiocese and its needs.
Our Archdiocese is just eight years old. It covers five districts of Assam (Nagaon, Morigaon, Kamrup, Nalbari and Goalpara) with a population of about 6.5 million, mostly tribals - most of them subsistence farmers with very little land.
While the soil is quite fertile, most farmers are limited to just one crop a year because of climatic conditions, although a few have a second cash crop of jute, oil seeds, etc. The weather patterns are highly erratic. We depend on the monsoons for rain, but floods often occur, resulting in many villages being cut off from outside contact for months. And we also suffer droughts.
Most of the tribal people are illiterate and very poor. There are few primary schools provided by the Government and throughout the region there are many health problems with thousands dying each year from malaria, cholera, TB, dysentery, typhoid and scabies.
Our work is aimed at helping people to help themselves. For it is only through education that individuals will acquire the skills to care for themselves and their families, as well as to gain employment.
I have several dreams. In the town of Goalpara I would love to establish a hospital staffed by doctors and nurses which would then be able to support the dispensaries in the surrounding villages. It remains most important to continue to build schools, train teachers and provide hostel accommodation for students from remote areas.
I trust the Lord will continue to bless our efforts. Nevertheless I am realistic enough to know that if my dreams are to become a reality I need help from friends abroad.
To help the Archbishop, contact Salesian Mission Officer, Br Michael Lynch, Don Bosco Centre, 715 Sydney Road, Brunswick Vic 3056, tel +61 (03) 9386 6302.