New Delhi, Okhla, March 19, 2019: Rev. Fr. Antony Thaiparambil, S. D. B. (84) expired at 2.10 pm on 19th March 2019 in the Holy Family Hospital at Okhla, New Delhi. His funeral will be in the Salesian cemetery in Okhla, New Delhi at 4 pm on 22nd March 2019.
Being the founder of Ashalayams in Kolkatta, New Delhi, Lucknow and Haryana, Fr. Antony is known as the “Father of Street Children.”
Born on 26thMarch 1935 in Kuruvinal, Palai, in Kerala, Fr. Antony joined the Salesian Congregation of Don Bosco in 1950. He was ordained a priest in 1965 at Shillong. From 1965 to 1968 he was at Krishnagar diocese as Catechist and Prefect. He served as Parish Priest (Vicar) in Chapra, Maliampetta, Asimganj, Thakurnagar; all in Krishnagar Diocese West Bengal. He was appointed Director of the Social Service Society of the Krishnagar Diocese. From 1980 to 1983 he served as Rector of Don Bosco Technical School in Okhla, New Delhi.
ASHALAYAM: (The Home of HOPE)
From his younger days in the Seminaries as a student of priesthood, Fr. Antony had an inner call to the marginalised, the destitute, the abandoned and the neglected in the Society. Even after twenty years of priestly ministries in administrative and leadership positions in prestigious parishes and institutions, his inner urge persisted in him. Therefore he took a short course on Community Development from the Indian Social Institute, Bangalore and went for Masters on Social Works (MSW) in Thiruppattur.
After completing his MSW, at his request, Fr. Antony was assigned to work for the youth and children at risks in KolkataCity. This exposure to the miseries and risks of the children wandering in the streets of Kolkata shocked the soul of Fr. Antony. On one of his numerous journeys through the Howrah Railway station he noticed large number of abandoned children roaming around the platforms. They looked distressed and miserable. Deeply touched by this Fr. Antony decided to approach them and learn more about their situations. He kept going to the station regularly to spend time with them. Thus he learned about their struggles, their constant fights for survival and the abuses into which they were victimised.He observed that some of themwork for very menial jobs during theday and fight for their safety during the nights. Forced by circumstances some of them indulge in criminal activities including prostitution. Deeply moved at the pitiable, dangerous and much anti-social conditions of these children Fr. Antony decided to act. In December 1985 Fr. Antony opened the first shelter home with the help of an NGO called “Seva Sang Samithi”. The home was situated at Pilkhana, Howrah, one of the major slum area of Kolkata city. This place is also called “Anand Nagar” “City of Joy”as put by the author Dominique Lapierre in the famous Novel.
Within few years Ashalayams became vastly renowned for the care and concern with love for the destitute. Thus Ashalayams became a true Home of Hope for the hopeless as the name indicates. More and more street children and youth from the destitute communities found shelter and solace in Ashalayams. As the number of seekers increased in different parts of the city more and more branches of Ashalayams were opened. Today there are 20 Ashalayams and 2 Night Shelters in the City of Kolkata alone and by now over one lakh of destitute are helped by Ashalayams.
Finding the success and effect of Ashalayams in Kolkata city, requests came to open such centres in other parts of the Salesian Missions. Thus Fr. Antony was assigned to various other places and he opened 2 Ashalayams in Delhi, one in Lucknow and another in Hariyana.
VISION of Ashalayams
Fr. Antony’s Vision of Ashalayams is to create a child-friendly and Child labour free Society that offers equal opportunities to all children and in whichthey can grow up safely and become agents of social harmony. For this he aimed to protect street and destitute children and to empower them to become strong, independent and educated adults. Above all Ashalayams’ objective is to give hope to the hopeless. Thus the name Asha – Alayam “Home of Hope”.