A Sister of Charity of Jesus and Mary serves tea to a resident of Shakina Home for the Aged in Youhanabad, Lahore, Pakistan. (Kamran Chaudhry)
Lahore, Pakistan- Rising electricity and gasoline prices have forced the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary to change their way of life in their homes for the aged across Pakistan.
Last month, the nuns installed solar panels on the roof of Shakina Home for the Aged at St. John’s Girls High School in Youhanabad, a predominantly Christian district of Lahore. The establishment accommodates 20 people aged 60 to 90.
Fans and lights are now solar powered in the house, which was blessed by Archbishop of Lahore Sebastian Shaw on February 9, 2013.
Sr. Sabina Barkat, administrator of Shakina Home, paid 153,000 rupees ($665) for the installation of solar power in June.
Sr. Sabina Barkat, standing, with residents of Shakina Home for the Aged in Youhanabad, Lahore, Pakistan (Kamran Chaudhry)
“Despite scorching temperatures reaching 46 degrees Celsius [114 degrees Fahrenheit], we don’t use air conditioners,” Barkat told Global Sisters Report. “Power outages for more than 10 hours during the sweltering summers have severely affected residents. Three to four residents die each year, mostly from diabetes and hypertension. Most of them are abandoned by their children, so we cover the funeral costs.”
The prolonged heat wave also destroyed most of the plant’s vegetable crops.
“Picking organic vegetables was a fun activity for the residents, who used to head to the plantations after breakfast. Now we only have okra, peppers and salad from the vegetable patch,” she said. “We eat the same food, but climate change has increased the costs.”
Amid the power shortage, the National Electricity Regulatory Authority approved the Federal Government’s request to increase the basic electricity tariff by Rs 7.91 per unit on July 22.
The Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary cut wood for cooking amid gas cuts in Pakistan last winter. (Courtesy of Sabina Barkat)
The government cited an increase in fuel prices and the impact of the devaluation of the Pakistani rupee, which hit an all-time low of 233 to the US dollar on July 26, as reasons for the significant increase in fuel fares. electricity.
Inflation, which hit a 14-year high in mid-June, has hit church-run charities like Shakina Home which provide free residence for the elderly.
However, Barkat says her experience as a Montessori teacher has helped her deal with elderly residents.
“My worst fear is that they will feel like this house is another hell. I ask the junior nuns to be good listeners, to solve trivial problems that are important to the residents and to feel their pain”, she said.
The dining room at Shakina Home for the Aged in Youhanabad, Lahore, Pakistan (Kamran Chaudhry)
“They never speak ill of their children. They just wait for them, hoping the children have time to visit them soon. After living a difficult life, they don’t need any training.”
In order to raise funds for the maintenance of the building, the five nuns of Shakina Home started a candle-making project in 2020. Most of their clients are priests based in the dioceses of Lahore and Islamabad-Rawalpindi.
“It’s a party-related business,” Barkat said. “The price of a Christmas or Easter candle ranges from Rs 100 for a votive to Rs 4,000 for a large pillar. Intermediate orders are occasional for those who prefer the wax quality.”
In the Archdiocese of Lahore, the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary also run six schools, including St. John’s Girls High School, where the number of students fell from 750 to 600 at the start of the COVID pandemic. -19.
Shakina Home for the Aged is located at St. John’s Girls High School, Youhanabad, Lahore, Pakistan. (Kamran Chaudhry)
Apart from local contributions, the sisters’ Lahore Province donates Rs. 60,000 to Shakina Home while the five resident nuns of Shakina Home together contribute Rs. 32,000 on a monthly basis. These cover the staff salaries of three people – a caretaker, a cook and a cleaning lady. A driver was laid off in March to meet rising expenses.
Shehla Muntazir, 61, moved to Shakina Home in March after her younger sons accused her of stealing jewelry. The mother-of-four was widowed after her husband died of a brain haemorrhage in 2010. Now she is only visited by her daughter, who travels to Youhanabad once a month or sends a driver.
“My son used to demand the house rent and unpaid bills. I used my husband’s pension, but the clashes resulted in verbal abuse and legal action. He put me cautioned against defamation when I left his house,” she said.
In January, she visited her eldest son in Lahore but returned sad after 10 days.
“My 10-year-old grandson calls me ‘Amma’. He was the one who called me to stay, but his mother kept throwing out cynical comments,” Muntazir said. “I had everything in life. Now the nuns help me start a new life. I feel blessed to buy new household items. I never fight with other residents.”
Originally called Dar-ul-Shafqat (“House of Compassion”), the facility was built by Goan Fr. Ronald Alexander D’Souza in 1979 just meters from St. John’s Girls High School. It consisted of two-storey wings of 16 rooms with a large courtyard in between.
On January 17, 1980, he donated the house to the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, who established the community in Youhanabad. The Brothers of Charity also help the nuns, especially when there are sick and dying.
D’Souza lived and died at St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged in the Maryville area of Karachi, the Southern Archdiocese, which is also run by the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary.
A Sister of Charity of Jesus and Mary tends to a man’s wounds at Shakina Home for the Aged in Youhanabad, Lahore, Pakistan. (Courtesy of Sabina Barkat)
His father, Frank D’Souza, was the first Indian appointed by the British as a member of the Indian Railway Board, and he established the Pakistan Western Railway after the partition of India in 1947. Maryville, his large estate in Karachi, was taken by the new government of Pakistan when it chose to settle in India after partition.
In 1947, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, founder and first Governor-General of Pakistan, requested Frank D’Souza’s help in setting up Pakistan’s railway system, and D’Souza agreed to return Maryville. After completing his work in Pakistan, D’Souza donated his home in Karachi to the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary for use as a home for the aged. He returned to India in 1961.
The Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary in Karachi had to cut spending during the July 23 celebration of the 60th Jubilee of St. Joseph’s House due to the rising cost of living in the port city.
Shakina Home for the Aged in Youhanabad, Lahore, Pakistan (Kamran Chaudhry)
Unlike Shakina Home, the Karachi branch charges 12,500 rupees a month for its 17 residents, all of whom are Christians. One thousand rupees is additionally charged to those who bring electrical appliances including refrigerators, irons, televisions and microwaves.
“The rent was increased this month [July] to cover growing expenses. We only take [members of the] English-speaking community in Goa who can afford the expense,” said Sr. Maria Teresa Ujaggar, Administrator of St. Joseph’s Home.
“Some bring extra devices to overcome loneliness. They have a separate room with an attached toilet.”
The nun is awaiting a response to letters of support sent to local donors, including retired military officers.
Residents of Shakina Home for the Aged in Youhanabad, Lahore, Pakistan, play Ludo, a strategic board game. (Courtesy of Sabina Barkat)
“Managing the budget with three meals in a context of rising inflation depresses us,” she said. “Foreign funds were canceled last year due to strict policies of the Economic Affairs Division. Local donors funded the repair of our leaky roofs last year. There is no support from the Archdiocese of Karachi.”
Prof. Francis Gulzar, who served as parish priest of St. John’s Catholic Church in Youhanabad for a decade, praised the service of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary. The former Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Lahore had spent time handing out rations at the Shakina household the past Christmases.
“It’s incredible given the current financial crisis,” he said. “The nuns carry on the mission of their founder in difficult areas like Youhanabad, where poverty is rampant. Yet, I make sure that people understand and support these causes.”
Do you like what you read ? Sign up for GSR eNewsletters!