By Vatican News
Pope Francis has made a donation of approximately 20 thousand euros in support of the Shanti Ashram women’s health and social centre in Coimbatore, India. Through a food bank and medical assistance and training facilities for female entrepreneurs, Shanti Ashram assists 50,000 children and their families in the villages around the city of Coimbatore, in the state of Tamil Nadu in the far south of the subcontinent.
Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, announced the Pope’s gift following an international online conference of renowned gynaecologists and paediatricians on Saturday that aimed at raising 60 thousand euros for Shanti Ashram.
The “Marathon for Solidarity” fundraiser was the inspiration of Professor Antonia Testa, Professor of Gynaecology and Obstetrics at the Catholic University’s Rome campus. Two years ago, during a trip to India, she met the president of the Shanti Ashram, paediatrician Kezevino Aram.
“In January, Kezevino contacted me with a request for help,” says Professor Testa. “After eight months of lockdown, she told me, ‘we have exhausted all our resources, I have never seen so much poverty.’ Since Kezevino foresees that the situation will not be resolved before June 2021 — she did not foresee such a disastrous situation in May — she is looking for the economic support to cover the costs of the work of assistance and care work for at least the next five months.”
Professor Testa explained the genesis of the Marathon for Solidarity. “In order to help her, I decided to involve colleagues and businesses in a ‘gynaecological marathon for solidarity,’ a virtual event lasting about 10 hours characterised by dialogue and sharing experiences. About twenty colleagues, experts in the field, have embraced the project in order to support the development of Indian communities in this pandemic crisis, which has been further aggravated by the exponential increase in infections and deaths in India since the end of February.”
Saturday’s event raised almost 40 thousand euros, well short of their goal. But in a surprise phone call after the conference, Cardinal Krajewski told Professor Testa that the Pope had decided to offer a donation to make up the difference, enabling Shanti Ashram to continue its work for the people of southern India.