Judeson M.X. sets an example by organising lunch rooms to feed the poor and by caring for the sick and the needy
Come rain or shine, every afternoon, some 30 to 40 people gather at 23 ootshalas (lunch rooms) in West Kochi and receive free packets of food. Every afternoon you also find Judeson M.X. in his auto rickshaw distributing food packets to orphans and people who don’t have a provision for their noon meal. This lunch room and packet distribution is a service started by Good Samaritan Judeson who has made helping people his way of life.
Such acts of kindness are rare in today’s workaday world. When performed they often set off a chain reaction and encourage others to join in, as it has done in this case. But altruists are few and far between.
Cultes leprosy hospital
Judeson has been doing social service for the past two decades. He chose this path early when he began working as a driver for the director of Cultes leprosy hospital in Perumpadappu. He used to carry medicines from the clinic to homes of patients in Panayapally, Palluruthy, Amaravathi and other places in and around Kochi. He soon developed a rapport with them and began following their cases. In the afternoon, he started helping these ostracised people by cutting their hair and nails. “It was a service. It was never about the money,” he says, recalling those initial days when he got drawn into this way of life.
It was not just the suffering of the sick, but also the good work being done by some people that impressed him. Judeson’s selfless work received appreciation and he began getting calls from people to help them tide over difficult situations, especially the home-bound and the bed-ridden . He looked after leprosy patients with bedsores and cleaned the soiled clothes of the terminally ill with tender care. It was their blessings that motivated him. He recalls fondly the case of Hasan sahib who used to pray for him daily. “Hasan sahib was in the hospital for eight years. He used to get bedsores regularly. I was with him till the last. His blessings are with me,” says Judeson sitting in his little office space in Catholic Centre in Thoppumpady.
In June of 1996 Judeson began another unique service for the wandering mentally ill, the tramps and the vagabonds. He got a custom built mobile sanitation van and began collecting “the homeless who needed a bath. I would bathe, feed, dress them and take them to the Corporation Relief Settlement”.
The local government authorities and the Cochin Diocese started seeking Judeson’s help and began working in tandem bringing relief and solace to the needy and the hungry.
Judeson’s reason for such selfless work is his son. “As a two-year-old, my son had to undergo treatment for a condition with his kidneys. I was deeply unhappy and prayed. I had a vision of a person with unkempt hair and beard asking for help. After that I constructed this mobile unit and began my work. Today my son is healthy. I feel blessed,” he says, thanking divine power for enabling him to lead such a life.
A chain of volunteers
His food distribution service began in 1997 when he saw a patient in Amaravathi being “shooed away” by everyone for the fear of contracting contagious diseases. “He used to go without food,” says Judeson with a look of disbelief. “I started this service because of him.” Soon many helping hands sprang up and provided Judeson with lunch packets for distribution for the needy, who he may know through his network. The first ootshala was started in 2003 in Chirakal, near St Joseph Chapel. Today there are 23 such outlets from where food is distributed at noon.
“The ootshalas are run by volunteers. People have given us a part of their homes, an outhouse or garage or a room from where we operate,” he says. With passage of time and with the help of the local community Judeson has organised the lunch homes. Each is run by a committee of three who cook and distribute at the venue. People donate generously on their festivals, birthdays, weddings etc. Many even give a treat by requesting for a meat dish to be prepared or a sweet to be added to the menu.
Judeson says that a well wisher gives an annual treat on his father’s death anniversary and requests for a fish preparation as his father was fond of fish. Such stories of love abound in his world. He feels that acts of kindness kindle a spark that spreads. His initiatives have received strong support as in the case of schools where each child brings two packets of food, one for distribution. “Just from one school, St Mary’s in Fort Kochi, I get 300 food packets,” he says, naming a list of schools that have joined this initiative started by him. “Children get the habit of giving and sharing from this. I distribute 450 food packets a day,” he says, handing over a food parcel to a youngster, an orphan, who walks in.
At 48, Judeson looks back on his two decades of active social work in which he has spread cheer and hope to hundreds of people. He basks in their blessings, confident that the spirit of helping is infectious, that one good deed leads to another.
Judeson can be contacted at 9847727088