Published in The Fiji Times "Off the Wall with Padre James Bhagwan", Wednesday, June 16, 2010
As I was glancing through Morven Sidal's "Hannah Dudley Hamari Maa", I came across a passage about the establishment of Dilkusha Girls' Home. According to the book, Dilkusha was established out of the 1904 Indian Synod meeting and based on the fact that both Hannah Dudley and Miss Burton, the sister of Reverend John Burton (first minister appointed to the Fiji Indian Circuit) were looking after orphans Dudley in Toorak, Suva and Burton in Davuilevu, Nausori.
As the orphans in Dudley's care were growing in number and Burton's was deteriorating, it was decided that an orphanage be erected at Davuilevu and Hannah Dudley become the matron of, "The Dudley Orphanage for Indian Children." It is suggested that the decision to move Dudley out to Davuilevu was the catalyst to her departure in July, 1905 for India, from where she returned in 1908 and served until 1913.
The legacy of Hannah Dudley's love and care for children and that of Miss Burton and other Methodist Mission Sisters and ministers, has continued over the past 100 years. The names of the self-sacrificing "mothers" of the "Happy Heart" (an English translation of Dilkusha) are not only engraved on their memorial plaque, but are also inscribed on each of the "girls" who found not only a refuge, but more importantly a loving environment - a family - at the home and other such homes for children around Fiji. The current matron, Deaconess Olovia Nataniela, has continued this legacy, serving with a happy heart as she searches for a suitable successor. That it is a difficult search to find someone who is like-hearted, only serves as a reminder of the need for love by many of God's children.
Early this year Deaconess Olovia asked me to help her design a special thank you gift for one of the Home's many benefactors. The gift needed to be special because it was expressing gratitude for an equally special gift. If you visit the Home you will see the gift as soon as you arrive. It is the Dilkusha Children's Hall. The hall was a gift from Raj Manohan on behalf of the Manohan Foundation for Humanity.
The humility of both the giver and receiver in this story demonstrated that the church leaders present at the handing over and opening of the hall expressed the thought of naming the hall either the Manohan Hall or the Olovia Nataniela Hall, both those named declined. Hence the name Dilkusha Children's Hall. The name claims the legacy of the hundreds perhaps thousands of women (and some men) who found peace and love in the Dilkusha Home.
This coming Saturday afternoon, those at the Home will have a little prayer meeting to give thanks for the donation of the year-old hall. That is the way of the "Happy Heart". To give thanks and hold in their heart the many people who love and share what they have with the home.
Deaconess Olovia always says to me how blessed they are at the home. Although the Home is part of Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma's, with oversight of the Church's Indian Division and Department of Christian Citizenship and Social Services, and supported by many civil society organisations and funding agencies, it is the small demonstrations of support that continue to encourage those who work there.
They receive a lot of support from church members, especially during Dilkusha Week which usually falls during September every year. However, it is the support by those not from the Methodist Church and, even more, those who are not of the Christian faith, that continues to remind the Home staff of the importance of the work they do not just in providing a shelter but making a loving home for those who may otherwise never experience it.
In his letter of thanks to Mr Manohan for the gift of the Dilkusha Children's Hall, the president of the Methodist Church in Fiji wrote:
"In the close to 100 years that the Home has been in existence, this is possible the largest gift that anyone has given to them. Your love for the home is an example of Christ's love for us and your most kind gift is a legacy for future supporters of the Home as well as a fulfilment of a dream for the Home."
When those who have committed their lives to serving Christ experience that same love, even from someone who does not profess the same faith as them, it is an affirmation of the good that can be achieved through deep and honest love. In a world where often kindness is seen as weakness, the gift of love is a source of empowerment greater than the gift itself.
To all of you, of whatever walk of life, who continue to help those less fortunate, to share in the struggles of the oppressed, and to be a source of blessing to others - thank you on behalf of those you have helped, those whose names you do not know and who, perhaps because of your humility may not know your name.
May the rest of your week be blessed with simplicity, serenity and spontaneity and the courage to act with compassion to all you encounter.
* Reverend JS Bhagwan is a member of the Faculty at Davuilevu Theological College and the Associate Minister of Dudley Methodist Circuit in Suva.
This article is the sole opinion of Mr J.S. Bhagwan and not of this newspaper or any organisation that he is affiliated with. Email:padrejamesgmail.com