Thursday, January 10, 2013

His Excellency Gaston Stronck visits Fr. Joe and Kripa Foundation, Mumbai - India

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Luxembourg is impressed by Fr. Joe and Kripa’s works, says envoy at nostalgic reunion
Kripa Foundation’s work in the field of rehabilitating substance addicts while simultaneously containing the HIV/ AIDS contagion in India is “very impressive” and is appreciated by the government of his country, His Excellency, Gaston Stronck, Ambassador of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, said in Mumbai on January 10, 2013. Incidentally, the occasion was also a happy reunion between the career diplomat and Fr. Joe, after nearly 24 years and the two resolved to further strengthen their friendship.
Ambassador Stronck, who was accredited as his country’s envoy in September 2011, made these observations following a visit to Kripa’s Bandra center in suburban Mumbai. “I was informed about Father Joseph H. Pereira’s works and Kripa by my colleagues at Luxembourg’s foreign ministry. They hold Fr. Joe and Kripa in high esteem and hence, I was eager to meet Fr. Joe and get a first hand insight into Kripa’s pioneering work,” he said, adding his country was proud to be associated with the Non-Government Organization.
The envoy was welcomed at Kripa Bandra by Fr. Joe and his delegation consisting of  senior officials at Kripa including Bosco D’Souza, National Program Director, Dr. Snehal Mehta, Director-Psychiatry, counselors and staff at Kripa Bandra. Ambassador Stronck also met patients recovering from drug and alcohol addiction who are residing at the Bandra facility. Patients briefed the ambassador on their addiction and the effectiveness of the Kripa Model of Recovery.
Fr. Joe pointed out, a majority of patients admitted at Kripa across all its centres in India range within the age group of 18 and 50 years. Father William Athaide, Parish Priest, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Bandra, Mumbai also attended the event. Fr. Joe availed the opportunity to thank Fr. William and the Mt. Carmel church parish for their generosity towards the Kripa Bandra facility and noted that Fr. William  plays a key role in helping Kripa and it’s patients. “Fr. Willie is loved by all patients at Kripa Bandra for his kindness and generosity,” he added. Fr. Joe informed patients about the exemplary contributions made by Luxembourg towards the Kripa Vasai centre which was formally inaugurated by Blessed Mother Teresa.
Later, an audio-visual presentation on Kripa and Fr. Joe’ achievement since its humble beginnings in 1981 was made by Bosco D’ Souza  for the ambassador. Fr. Joe recalled the dilemma he had faced in 1971 while being ordained as a priest and his calling towards helping substance addicts and HIV/ AIDS victims while containing the epidemic. He detailed how Mother Teresa and his spiritual director, Fr. Tony D’Mello had encouraged him to follow his calling. “Exactly a decade later, in 1981, Kripa was established- hence culminating Mother Teresa’s prophecy into reality,” he added. Dr. Shashi Menon, Director-Medicine at Kripa, in the audio-visual, lauded how Kripa became a pioneer in India in battling substance addiction while helping contain the HIV/ AIDS epidemic since drug users and alcoholics are considered as high risk groups to contract the deadly disease. The audio visual also contained testimonies of former Kripa patients some of whom are top professionals such as physicians, engineers and IT experts and leaders in their various fields.

Following the visit to Kripa, Fr Joe, Ambassador Stronck, Dr. Mehta and Mr. Bosco D’Souza enjoyed a dinner at the world famous restaurant ‘Bungalow 9’ in Bandra (West).
Ambassador Stronck gave his friend, Fr. Joe, a pleasant surprise: He asked Fr Joe to open a gift wrap which contained a picture of Fr. Joe and Ambassador Stronck taken 24 years ago, when the envoy, then holding a different position, had visited the Bandra centre and later was part of a diplomatic delegation that had toured Kripa Vasai, a facility funded by Luxembourg. “ I have longed to meet you again since our first meeting nearly 24 years ago,” the ambassador, remarked.  The reunion was very nostalgic for both as they shared precious moments and talked about their respective spheres of work. 
Owners of Bungalow 9, Mr.Anslem and Mrs. Leonys Pereira who hosted the dinner, stated  they were “ blessed and happy to have Fr. Joe and Ambassador Stronck as their guests. Indeed a memorial day for His Excellency and Fr. Joe in their bondage of friendship.
Submitted by
Ashwin Honawar