Thursday Tidbits

Posted on August 17, 2017 under Thursday Tidbits with one comment

John Ponnya and Sister Archana Das


It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of one of my friends from the leprosy colony in Kannyakumari, India. John Ponnya died on Wednesday, August 16th.

I met John for the first time on December 31st. 2016 when I attended a New Year’s Eve morning mass at the leprosy community. I have to admit that I was a bit nervous going there the first time as I had many preconceived notions. The Sisters assured me that there were no more active cases of leprosy.

That first trip there was a bit of a jarring experience but not uncomfortable… if that makes any sense. It didn’t take long to detect the warmth in these people and I was made to feel welcome from the first time I stepped on the premises. Over the ensuing months, I was a frequent visitor.

I learned a lot from people like John. Despite the enormous obstacles he faced, spending much of his life pushing himself around on a ground level platform, he always had a smile on his face. And even though neither of us understood a word the other said, we became friends just by spending time together.

Here is John’s life story that I posted several months ago.

The Daughters of Mary established the leprosy colony over 25 years ago. They built it with their own hands and with the help of local youths. They continue to support this community on a daily basis with free electricity, running water, medical aid, education and, from time to time, food. Cuts in government funding have severely hampered the efforts of the Sisters,who also operate a number of orphanages, homes for mentally ill women and an old age home.

 I continue to work with the Sisters to raise money to help them to achieve some level of sustainability. I plan to go back to Kannyakumari next January. There is an account set up at the East Coast Credit Union ( Bergengren ) called “Investment India.” You can also contribute by way of e-transfer at

Rest in peace, John.



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