by Martha Neira July 2011
In July 2011, I had the opportunity to visit the “Cooperativa Desarrollo Comunal” (Cooperative of Community Development) and I met with its founder and executive director, Father Simon Jogendra Kumar Mahish. This project is part of the KAIROS foundation and supported by the Somascos order of priests.
The project is in the heart of one of the poorest and most neglected ghettos in Guayaquil. When I passed through the gates of the compound, it was like entering an oasis populated entirely by children, some as young as 3 years old and some as old as 18. The most striking feature of this oasis was the sound of laughter and play. In the middle of this joyful noise was Father Simon, himself an unusual sight, a native of India, though he speaks fluent Spanish. For the past 20 years, he has dedicated himself to building a center for children at risk to give hope to the abandoned and abused.
The objective of the Isla Trinitaria Center is to facilitate the social integration of boys and girls, adolescents and young adults who are in serious conflicts with society because of their HIV status, sexual abuse, abandonment, and other forms of social and physical abuse. Father Simon provides them with a home in the “Casa Familia” Family Homes. Presently, he houses about 37 children ages 3 to 12 who are orphans, whether because of the death of their parents or abandonment. He also provides “Centros de Enseñanza” --Educational Centers, fully equipped elementary and high schools for residents as well as non-residents of the Casas, and “Centros de Capacitación,” --training centers where young adults learn computer skills and a trade, such as becoming a seamstress. At the “Centro de Atención Integral,”-- Center for Integral Attention, counseling, medical attention and other social services are provided to the community at large.
By offering this comprehensive array of services, Father Simon helps not only the children in his charge but also the whole community. He provides employment to area residents and thus offers them the opportunity to carve a better, healthier future for their children and themselves.
What impressed me most was the behavior and demeanor of the children. It was evident that they felt safe and free to be children, under the watchful eye of Father Simon. This outstanding individual has been able to build this oasis for the people of Isla Trinitaria, and in his own words, he is “not finished building.”