The Coramandel Express is an Indian flagship train service – always jam-packed – which operates daily from Kolkata Howrah to Chennai Central. The journey is about 1650 kilometres. My wife Jill and I boarded this train mid-afternoon on day one, arrived in Chennai early evening on day two and at 9 am on day three, arrived at MITHRA. The date was 3rd March, 1992, as I write, 25 years ago to the day.
We were warmly greeted by Sister Mary Theodore whom we’d met some eighteen months earlier and Sister Patricia Power OP, formerly a teacher at Adelaide’s Cabra Dominican College and whom Jill remembered from her time as a boarder at Cabra in the Mid-1950’s.
In discussion with both Sisters, it was decided that Jill and I would best serve by beginning the job of establishing a toy library so as to assist staff in their work of educating and generally supporting the children. Jill had years of experience in the field so it seemed an obvious choice. In this we were to be guided by Sister Patricia, as well as assisted by two young Flinders University students Jennie and Tricia.
As time passed, Jill’s professional experience with staff and child development, together with expertise in the use of educational toys and equipment, became invaluable as the toy library began to take shape and a life of its own in a new building which was still under construction when we arrived.
Along with some illustration of the daily life, my pictures on Facebook perhaps give the best description of what occurred over the several weeks that we assisted at MITHRA. In our regular meetings with Sister Theodore, often informally over a meal, it was always agreed that the ultimate purpose was to have children developmentally active and staff thoughtfully facilitating this activity. This was our purpose in a nutshell. Indeed, as I reflect, purpose, partnership, patience, praise and prayer were our operating maxims. We arrived at MITHRA at the beginning of Lent, left early in Holy Week and altogether thought it a Lent well spent.
– By Brian Sayner (Adelaide).
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