Sneha Nilayam: where the abandoned feel at home
By Agnel Maria
Telangana is one of India’s cultural centres and boasts a rich diversity of people from the north and south of the country. Sneha Nilayam, a home for the aged is situated in the Suryapet district of Telangana, India. It was established in 1979 with Br. John Vaniapura being the first director, under whose leadership the home began to flourish. By the end of 1981, there were approximately 25 residents. This place serves as a home for the poor, abandoned, and specially-abled individuals of society, employing a community-based rehabilitation approach towards the residents. Every new member is warmly welcomed with open arms.
Offering Happiness Beyond Your Lifetime
One remarkable aspect of the missionaries' work is their provision to one of the most challenging acts of mercy—burying the deceased. It is considered especially meaningful and rewarding in the eyes of God when done for the abandoned. The missionaries ensure that the final ceremonies are conducted before laying the deceased to rest, and they even inform the families who have abandoned their elderly relatives at the home for the aged.
Within the premises, there is a serene and picturesque cemetery where individuals of different races, religions, and ethnicities are buried. The cemetery wall features a painted cross in the centre, accompanied by the 'Om' symbol representing the Hindu community on one side and the 'Star and Crescent Moon' representing the Muslim community on the other side. This painting embodies the deep and evocative concept of "Unity in Diversity," as famously described by Jawaharlal Nehru, the former Prime Minister of India, in his book 'The Discovery of India'.
The mission work and care for the specially-abled can be incredibly challenging and often leads to persecution from society, as these missionaries serve as voices for the weak and abandoned. As the Gospel of Matthew 5:12 aptly states, "Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." These missionaries are accumulating their treasures in heaven, where their hearts truly reside by working for the Lord.
Footsteps Back in History
Brother Bala Vinod Kumar Reddy from the Montfort Brothers of St. Gabriel, along with Sister Ruby Thanickal, Sister Mary Kalliyathuparambil, Sister Liji Aloor, and Sister Mary Vadakkan of the Nirmal Dasikal congregation, take care of the home and attend to the residents' needs. For 23 years, they have provided a home for 450 individuals. Sadly, 77 residents have passed away and are buried in the cemetery. Despite receiving no financial aid from the government or other funding agencies, the home has managed to create a beautiful spiritual life for the residents as they are supported by their province and by the Liliane Foundation. The Foundation works to empower children with disabilities and their parents, collaborating with local partners in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Its aim is to create a more inclusive and accessible environment while providing the necessary support for the growth and development of specially-abled children.
The brothers and sisters follow several unique practices to keep the residents engaged, bringing purpose and a sense of achievement to their lives. Although the residents have been abandoned by society, the missionaries assign them tasks such as cleaning the surroundings, tending to livestock, and watering the garden. With very few staff members, the help from these residents is highly appreciated. As Matthew 25:35-36 says, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me." The missionaries not only proclaim the Good News through their words but also through their actions, putting the word of God into practice.