Upon leaving Dornakal, it took us about 4-5 hours of driving to reach the city of Guntur. The large state of Andhra Pradesh was bifurcated into two new states: Telangana State and Andhra Pradesh, and the largest city in the original state was Hyderabad. Traditionally, Andhra Pradesh area was more the coastal area, so the state of Andhra Pradesh was assigned to the area of the original state near the coast, and the central area, where Hyderabad, the original capital city, was located, stayed as the State of Telangana. This was a problem for everyone, as most private and public investments had been made for many years in Hyderabad.

 The state has only smaller cities with poor urban infrastructure in the coastal area. To satisfy these concerns, the Indian government worked to create a new capital city for the state of Andhra Pradesh. With the help of local municipal governments, new investments, and the World Bank, they secured a new area for the capital city.

The initial investments were made, and the construction of some infrastructure started. Still, of course, poor planning, some corruption and politics, extreme ambition, and the global support for the construction of this new capital waned, and it was finally halted when capital for the initial urbanization could not be collected. The city was abandoned, and Andhra Pradesh stayed without a capital. Guntur, then, became the focal point for investment and development. Guntur was a small city with poor urban designs and a conglomeration of about 400k people in a small area. The new developments started in the city’s outskirts, and more and more companies came to build homes here, and housing construction in the thousands started. The town had a pause during the pandemic, but housing construction and some urban development have been reestablished.

The city of Guntur is now bursting with heavy traffic, an affluence of people from all over the state and chaos. Here, the Catholic Diocese of Gunter and Children Incorporated supports some of the poorest of the poor children. They are children, mostly day workers who previously worked in the fields outside the city, are now absorbed by urban development, and mainly work in services without permanent jobs.

The Gunter Diocese was supporting hostels in parishes outside the city limits, but one is now swallowed by the city expansion. The diocese sees the need to support the affluence of poor people coming into the city in search of jobs that are not usually available because this is a city in transition. There are no permanent jobs to be had!

Children Incorporated was supporting two programs here, a private school run by the Catholic Church, the Auxilium School and a hostel, Stambalagaruvu Hostel, also run by the Catholic Church and supporting children of some of those families that got re-located due to the new development of the city. During our visit, we had many questions about our program. This was because the priest assigned to our program, Fr. Y. Marreddy, was new, and we received some reports that needed clarification.

Fr. Marreddy was prompt to meet with us upon arrival to Guntur and after settling in at our hotel. He took us to his office and indicated that he oversees Social Programs within the Diocese, including children’s support programs. We learned that he only has CIs at this time, as the Diocese relied on the local government’s support to upkeep the hostels and that support was suspended recently. For this reason, the priest in charge of the Stambalagaruvu Hostel could no longer sustain the facility. Fr. Marreddy, without consultation, decided to absorb the Stambalagaruvu children into the Auxilium School. After dissolving the hostel, the children selected were sent back to their families. Since most live near the facility (Stambalagaruvu hostel is next door to the Auxilium School), he asked the school administrators if they could accept the children and cover the school fees with the sponsorship support funding. The sisters in charge accepted, and since last year, we have had the boys from Stambalagaruvu hostel attend Auxilium School!

The Auxilium School is a private school run by the Salesian Sisters, now the Director of the Community and in charge of the Children Incorporated program there is Sister Bridget Jacob; of course, this is in coordination with Fr. Marreddy. This school provides a very sound education to children from kindergarten to high school. The children receive core classes according to the state’s required curriculum, and the demands for a good education exist. The facilities are ample and in good shape. Professional capacity is provided to all personnel, and the school has an excellent reputation.

For this reason, all parents of the children in our program are very proud of making any sacrifices to make sure their children, even coming from a very humble environment, can attend the school and be proud of the education they are receiving. For this reason, we did not hear any complaints from the boys after the closing of Stambalagaruvu.

We can see why it was positive, yet it should be shared with us. The Children Incorporated sponsorship funding is utilized entirely in education. This is for both groups, the original Auxilium School children and the Stambalagaruvu children. All monies, either from sponsorship or from additional gifts, are given to support education, and the structure is that the monthly/yearly fee is paid as agreed to by the sisters first. An effort to provide all educational materials at the beginning of the year, including backpacks and shoes, is also made. The children are doing great, and all have improved their education, although, in the beginning, it was a bit difficult for some. Now, they are familiar with the demands of the educational system and comply with the requirements.

We met with the sisters and Fr. Marreddy to share the importance of letters for the sponsors and updates and pictures for the children yearly, and both expressed great interest in compliance. The sisters even pitched the possibility of supporting more children and children from another nearby school funded by the same congregation. We have agreed that after the school year ends in May 2024, all the children will be merged into Auxilium School only, and we will have just one program in this area, for which we discussed the possibility of sending the funding directly to the school overpassing the Diocese. We met the children and asked questions about the changes and the school, and they all seemed very happy about it, as they see it as an improvement. The parents have taken the same approach to the change, and some were asking if it was possible to expand the program to other families or children of their own. We proceeded to our next destination!

Story Series

written by Shelley Callahan

Shelley is the Director of Development for Children Incorporated. She is also the lead social correspondent, regularly contributing insights through the Stories of Hope blog series. Sign up for Stories of Hope to receive weekly email updates about how your donations are changing the lives of children in need.

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