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An Interview with Father John Kumar

by Gordon Nary

Gordon: Please provide an overview of your mission.

Fr. John Kumar: I am Fr. John Kumar, an ordained priest, working in the Catholic Diocese of Marthandam. I am a priest for the past 15 years and served in different capacities. In the earlier days of my priesthood, I worked in the mission stations of our Diocese in the Nagercoil area. Took extensive travel and visits to the families who have newly joined to our faith. I also served the diocese as the director of Health for One Million (HOM) health department of the Diocese. At present, I am working as the director of Marthandam Integrated Development Society, the social work department of the Diocese of Marthandam.

Gordon: What are the activities that Marthandam Integrated Development Society (MIDS) does for the people in your area?

Fr. John Kumar: MIDS’ the social apostolate of the Diocese of Marthandam is working in Kanyakumari-District. MIDS is actively involved in various community development activities for the socio-economic development of the poor in our area. Presently we have 441 Self-Help Groups of women to promote savings habits among the rural poor women. Through SHGs, different pieces of training are imparted to the rural poor women. This activity helped the marginalized families to expand their income base. Family Development Programme is helping economically poor families to come up in life by taking up income-earning activities. 538 rural poor children are supported to under our sponsorship program to continue their school studies. Natural Resource Management, Micro-credit assistance to poor, farmers clubs, Marian widow movement are other major activities of the organization.

Gordon: What is the approach of MIDS?

Fr. John Kumar: MIDS approach to development is participatory. We believe in the innate abilities of the poor. MIDS identify the poor, facilitate them, and equip them to stand there on feet. Helping persons to help themselves is our motto.

Gordon: Please describe your cancer programme and the number of people that you care for?

Fr. John Kumar: This district is one of the districts having a high number of cancer cases in India. There are a number of cancer cases reported from our operational area. Marginalized families having cancer-affected persons are finding it hard to provide good treatment and nutritious food for the patients. We have trained a team of 86 volunteers and using their free service to create awareness among the general public about cancer and motivate people to go for cancer screening.

We network with Regional Cancer centre, Trivandrum, and C.S.I cancer centre, Neyoor in providing cancer treatment to the villagers. During the last year we have organized 15 village-level cancer awareness programmes for the benefit of the villagers. We have assisted 260 villagers to go for cancer screening. Presently 138 cancer patients are under our care. They live in their families and our volunteers used to visit them. We assist them with finance to meet their medical expenses. The general public are motivated to assist very needy families with cancer patients with food items.

Gordon: Who are the Physicians who care for the cancer patients that you help ?

Fr. John Kumar: Dr. Sr. Gloria, St. Joseph Hospital, Panachamoodu, and Dr. Bose Government Medical College, Hospital, Assaripallam are very closely associated with our cancer care programme. Together with the other doctors from the nearby government hospitals are quite supportive to us in running the programme.

Gordon: Where do you receive funding and what funding do you still need?

Fr. John Kumar: We are not receiving any external financial assistance now. We are encouraging our Self-Help Group members to donate for this project. Few members responded to our request and the money thus locally mobilized is utilized for our cancer care programmes. We also have collected dry ration from different people and the same is given to most needy cancer patients to meet their food needs.

There are a number of cancer patients in our area who needs financial support to purchase medicines and go for medical check-ups. It is pitiable to note the sufferings of cancer affected patients in our area without having proper medication (pain killer). We solicit your financial support to reach-out to the neediest cancer patients in our area.

Gordon: How many men, women, and children that you have cared for have died because of access to appropriate cancer care and the most effective treatments?

Male -16

Female -14

Children -03

Fr. John Kumar: Presently out of the 138 cancer patients we are caring, 28 of them are at the terminal stage. We (MIDS core team) used to visits these patients, pray for them, and console the family members. Cancer affected patients are longing for our visits to ventilate their feelings.

Gordon: Can you elaborate a little more about your cancer care programme.

All the dreams of Mr.Jebakumar (aged 46) shattered when he was diagnosed with cancer in his throat 1 year ago. He was very much worried about his three grown-up girl children under the marriageable age. Mr.Jebakumar and his family were leading a contented life with the income he was earning from daily labor. He constructed a small house for the family with his hard work. Children were very good in their studies.

Two years ago Mr.Jabakumar noticed some change in his voice, his sound becomes very mild. He did not care much about it. After a few month's time he finds it hard to sallow food and saliva. He consulted the doctor at Government Hospital, Parasala and they recommended him to consult the doctors at Regional Cancer centre, Trivandrum. There the doctors diagnosed cancer in his throat and done immediate surgery to remove the cancerous portions from his body. He had undergone radiation and chemotherapy a few times which weakened his health quite badly. He is very weak and not able to go for any work. He is under medication from the Regional Cancer Centre, Trivandrum. He can’t swallow any food and food is served to him in liquid form through a tube.

In order to meet the food needs of his family, his wife started working in a cashew nut processing factory and with the meagre income, she is managing the family. All three children are at home and not able to continue their studies due to financial problems. Mr.Jebakumar is a rejected person now... he always worries about his family. He needs a lot of money to purchase medicine for him and for travel to the hospital. MIDS is supporting Mr.Jebakumar under its cancer care programme called SANJIVINI to purchase necessary medicines. Financial aid from MIDS is a blessing for this unlucky rural poor man.

Gordon: What type of external support you expect for your cancer care programme?

Fr. John Kumar: There are a number of other persons who are in a tough situation to look after cancer affected members of their families. They need external financial support to cover the expenses of basic medicines and nutritious food for the patients. The Head of the family of these affected families is not able to go for work because they have to be with the affected persons and console them. It will be a great help if generous heart persons support cancer-affected persons in our area with financial aid. Monthly financial aid of USD$ 40 will help these families to meet the medical expenses of the terminally ill cancer patients. Your support will help them to experience Gods love in this world and die peacefully.

Gordon: Could you give your bank account details

Fr. John Kumar: Bank Account Details to Transfer the Funds

(or) through Fr.Thomas Ayyaneth

Gordon: What is your final comment about the cancer care programme ?

Fr. John Kumar: MIDS need external financial support to provide compassionate care to cancer patients and make their life in this world more comfortable. Families need proper guidance and support to look after their family members suffering from cancer.

Gordon: Please provide an overview of the cancer of my friend Alwin Rex and what his monthly needs are;

Fr. John Kumar: Mr. Alwin Rex is doing well these days. He has undergone a surgery to remove the tuner in his head with the generous financial support of different people. After the surgery, he is feeling better and is taking regular medicines as per the direction of the doctors. His wife is very much thankful to you for the generous financial support through you to them to tide over their difficult situation. He is physically weak not able to go for any work to earn income for the family. Further, her wife has to be at home to take look after him. He needs external financial assistance to meet his medical expenses and food needs. We are praying for his health and speedy recovery.

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