Cyclone Michaung compounds poverty and hardship in Chennai

Through prayers and donations, Missio has supported the Marialaya ‘House of Mary’ project in southern India for many years. The project is run by the Sisters of Don Bosco and offers hope to families in dire poverty. But now they are facing a new and more immediate challenge in the form of Cyclone Michaung.

When Chennai’s leaders decided to build luxury flats, over 100,000 residents were moved to Kannagi Nagar. This huge ‘slum’ resettlement on the city’s outskirts has poor access to utilities, education, and transport, and is plagued with crime. Families cram into tiny, single rooms, with no running water or safe sanitation.

Most children growing up here have very few prospects for the future. For many, life is harder still; some families have so little that they have no other option but to live on the pavements beside the busy roads.

But last week, we heard from project coordinator Sister Nirmala, that a new, more immediate threat has engulfed the people of Chennai and Kannagi Nagar – Cyclone Michaung.

The severe cyclonic storm has battered India’s southern states, killing nine people and leaving thousands homeless and in need of evacuation. Houses have collapsed and schools, colleges and businesses have had to close due to the perilously rising flood waters. Chennai’s IT, electronics, and manufacturing districts have also closed. And power, water supply and public transport have all ground to a halt.

Sr Nirmala managed to get a message to us. She shared:

‘The situation is very bad. Cyclone Michaung affected Chennai very much. We are without electricity and water. Rain has flooded people’s houses and they are in the shelter.

‘Pray for our children. Even now I am sitting in the dark using another person’s mobile to send this message. Water level is increasing on our street, but so far we are safe. Boats and helicopters are rescuing the people. We are arranging food for them and the government is also trying to provide food and shelter for them.’

This Christmas, Sr Nirmala and her team will be working day and night to ensure that as many people as possible are safe, sheltered, and fed. Their hope is that the children they look after will survive this latest disaster, which is compounding the poverty and hardship they already face.

Now more than ever, it is vital to send support to Sr Nirmala and her fellow Sisters, so they can continue to help the families who are most vulnerable and likely to be overlooked in this crisis. We have faith that, with the help and prayers of our friends and supporters here in England and Wales, the impoverished communities of Chennai will come through the tragedy and rebuild their lives. Sr Nirmala and her team will continue to stand with the local people and help them through their sufferings.

Missio is encouraging Catholics in England and Wales to contribute to the Marialaya project this Christmas. Through Missio, you can ensure that vital funds reach those who have lost what little they had, and share the hope of Christ this Christmas and beyond. As always, we ask for prayers for our sisters and brothers in their time of need.

Read more about Sr Nirmala and the Marialaya project at

Help missionaries like Sr Nirmala empower and educate children this Christmas, at

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