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 Mother Teresa's Roses : The work of Sister Christabelle 

Sister Christabelle helping a young destitute.It was a red rose given by Mother Teresa, and her suffering due to cancer, that changed Sister Christabelle's life and brought her out from the sheltered roof of Mother Teresa's home in Pune, to the streets of the world.

For 24 years as a member of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, Sister Christabelle had never walked the streets where neglected, abandoned and impoverished human beings deprived of love and care, died a silent death.Carrying on Mother Teresa's mission of service to humankind.What took her to the streets was when the doctors detected that she was suffering from cancer in 1992. That was the time she met Mother Teresa, who gave her a red rose and said that it would help her to heal. She was in Africa when the ailment recurred. She came to Mumbai for treatment and decided that then that if she survived, she would do something for those who are worse off than her.
" That is how my movement started. I also decided to name it after roses, as my mission on the street began with one rose which Mother Teresa gave me" says Sister Christabelle.

The movement is known as Mother Teresa's Roses.

Red Roses volunteers and Sister Christabelle reaching out to a homeless Sister Christabelle elaborates : "This movement came into existence after I reached out to Francis, a destitute who was afflicted with leprosy. In September 1998, under the footbridge of Vile Parle railway station in North West Mumbai, I had an encounter with Francis who was sprawled in his sleeping bag amidst stones and filth. His companions were stray cats and dogs rummaging through the garbage bins beside him. I would always smile at Francis and inquire about his health. He would reply in a feeble tone `very well sister' with a toothless grin and wave his fingerless palms. Whenever I made attempts to arrange for his stay at the Home for Leprosy at Varsava in Gujarat, Francis would elude me. I then realised that the only wealth a beggar possessed and was unwilling to part with at any cost, was his freedom."

"Francis' health was rapidly deteriorating and withiGiving a healing touch to festering wounds.n a short period of time he became immobile, and was unable to move out from the spot which was littered with filth and dirt. He lived in abject inhuman conditions. One day I approached Francis and asked him whether I could clean his maggot infested body. He agreed, but on one condition that I did not shift him out from his `dwelling'. I was initially embarrassed to be seen cutting the long and matted hair of an ostracized destitute and then giving him a bath in the full view of onlookers . I persuaded Francis to come to my convent gate, but he refused to budge. I prayed to God for courage and strength to do for others what I would do for Jesus Christ. I accomplished my mission of cleaning up Francis and winning over his confidence that I would not steal his prized possession: his freedom."

" I spread my wings to other parishes in Pune and Mumbai. It was because of Francis that the movement of "Mother Teresa's Roses'' came into existence. Today, Mother Teresa's Roses is a golden opportunity for lay people to witness faith in action,'' said Sister Christabelle.

Sister Christabelle smiles through all the suffering she is undergoing. In the last two years, Sister Christabelle and her band of around 1700 volunteers regularly scout around for hapless destitute on the streets of Mumbai, Pune, Goa and the US, cleaning and dressing the wounds of the destitute and giving a soothing touch to their troubled minds. Volunteers are divided into five sections for better coordination and functioning. Each has been enlisted a duty : the Pink Roses are the administrators, the Yellow Roses cook food for distribution, the Orange Roses collect contributions, the Red Roses look after the needy while the White Roses pray for peace. Also chipping in are the Rambling Roses (youth) and the Rosebuds for children. Mother Teresa believed in the healing power of the natural fragrance of the fresh rose.

Her motto: "We cannot work yesterday. We work for today. Tomorrow may never come.''

Author: Mani D'Mello
Photographer : Vinayak Prabhu

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µ Concern India Foundation
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µ Adding life to days with love
µ Eldred Tellis
µ Mother Teresa's roses
µ Association of Youth for a Better India
µ ICICI Providing a helping hand
µ Shelter Don Bosco - a lamp of hope
µ Akanksha - Bringing a smile to every face
µ The Spastics Society of India
µ SMILE - A charitable organisation with a purpose.
µ Vipula kadri
µ Bombay Natural History society
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