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"Newsmakers from Hyderabad"

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Rev.K.I.Philip Ramban

"The Messiah of the downtrodden"

-Mr. Issac Thomas

Hyderabad:The life of Very Rev. K.I.Philip Ramban is a saga of bringing hope and relief to the downtrodden and the distressed.
70 years old Ramban (A title given to selected senior members of the priestly order of the Orthodox Church of India- the oldest Christian Church based in Kerala) belongs to St.Paul's Brotherhood, which is active in humanitarian work under the guidance of H.G.Geevarghese Mar Osthathios Metropolitan.
Born in a middle class agricultural family in a small village in central Kerala, Rambachen, as he is affectionately called, was, from childhood attracted to helping the lowly and the downtrodden.

After completing his schooling he joined the Mission Training Centre of the Orthodox Church and later on moved to Puthuppady in Kerala to assist in establishing the St.Paul's Ashram and balabhavan there. In 1958 he joined the Orthodox Seminary in Kottayam. After completing his training there and after being ordained as a priest in 1962 he worked for several years in several parts of the country.

The major turning point in his life was his being assigned as the project officer for the relief work in Andhra Pradesh in the aftermath of the killer cyclone in 1977. He was instrumental in rebuilding 2 villages with the funds provided by the Orthodox Church. The irony of this assignment was that by accepting this assignment he spurned a scholarship for higher studies in Egypt, which would have helped him in going up in the church hierarchy. But then church got a torchbearer for its work among the distressed and the downtrodden outside Kerala.

With the money left over from the cyclone relief work the church allowed him to start his pet project for children of the lower strata of the society. Thus came the now famous Balagram at Yacharam near Hyderabad for healthy children of leprosy patients. Started off in 1985 with 5 children Balagram is now a home for over 100 children in the age group 3 to 15 years. Most of the children who left Balagram are gainfully employed or are pursuing college education funded by Balagram. The children are admitted irrespective of caste, creed or religion and are provided food, shelter and education free of cost. Other institutions followed, with the opening of Balikagram in Pune in 1993 (for daughters of leprosy patients), Balagram in Itarsi in 1995 (for Sons of leprosy patients) and Kalahandi Development Project in 1995 (for the development of Kalahandi District of Orissa). The unique aspect of all these projects is that they are all funded mainly by donations from individuals.

For his work among the downtrodden, he was awarded the Catholicate Award by the Orthodox Church.

The super cyclone of 1998 brought Rambachen to Bhubaneswar. With no knowledge of the local language but with his characteristic way of motivating people he accomplished the task of building over 200 concrete houses for the cyclone affected within a short span of around 13 months. In appreciation of the work done under his leadership, the Orthodox Church was awarded a memento on the last Republic Day by the Orissa State Government, one of the three institutions thus rewarded by the Government.

The earhquake in Gujarat in 2000 brought him to Gujarat. He took upon himself the work of rebuilding one of  the villages in the Bhuj area on behalf of the Orthodox Church. The work was completed in a record time as well.

Balagram established in 2001 a modern eye hospital at Yacharam in partnership with L.V.Prasad Eye Institute to provide modern eye care at affordable cost to the villagers around. Till date the hospital has conducted over 800 free cataract surgeries.

He was actively involved in establishing the home for children of HIV afflicted at Tumkur, again one of the firsts for the Orthodox Church.

His plans for the future include a home for the aged and a terminal care center.

A great motivator and a believer in the good nature of the humans and who sets an example by his punishing speed of work, you will find him bringing peace and solace where there is misery and sorrow. A mild stroke, which he suffered recently, has not diminished his zeal in any way.

 The Orthodox Churches of the Twin Cities have recently felicitated him by conducting a thanksgiving prayer meeting at St.Gregorios Orthodox Cathedral, Hyderabad on 16th November 2003. During this occasion 70 sewing machines donated by well-wishers were given to eligible recipients.

Reachout's News Bureau
December' 2003

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