Fr McCulloch, an Australian, worked in Mindanao from 1971 till 1978 when he was assigned to Pakistan, a new mission for the Columbans. He spent 34 years in Pakistan and in 2012 was given that country’s highest civilian award for foreign nationals. He is now in Rome as the Procurator General of the Columbans.
Unlike three other children in his family, 12-year-old Rattno was lucky to survive in November 2012 when the shack their family called home burnt down. Rattno is a Hindu boy of the Parkari Koli tribal people in south-east Pakistan who are desperately poor, enslaved to feudal Muslim landlords, dispossessed, and who lost everything they had during the floods of 2010 and 2011.
Fr Robert McCulloch and hospital administrator James Francis talk about the involvement of the Missionary Society of St Columban in St Elizabeth Hospital.
Rattno's parents moved to Jhirruk, 40km south of Hyderabad, when they heard that St Elizabeth Hospital was building houses to re-house flood affected people. Although the hospital had constructed 820 houses in other places, only 30 could be built in Jhirruk until more funds became available.
The hope of Shivji and Shonti, Rattno's parents, turned to disaster when their children were lighting a kerosene pressure lamp which exploded. Saiba, Lakhnu and Shonti, aged from 7 to 15, died in the fire. Rattno survived.
St Elizabeth Hospital arranged for Rattno's extensive skin grafts and medical care. He has recovered well from the skin grafting procedures. St Elizabeth wants to continue his good medical care, to ensure infection control and to provide the food and comfort which he would not get in the desert settlement of Jhirruk. His parents take turns in remaining at the hospital with him.
Happiness and hope have come back to Rattno. I often say to myself: ‘If only we had the money then to build all the houses in Jhirruk so that Rattno and his family would have a permanent home!’
The skin grafting on Rattno's legs, face and left hand is a success. He had the first orthopedic surgery on his left leg on 17 January this year. This was successful. At the time of writing he was due to have two more surgical procedures in February. The cost of his care will be close to Php400,000. He was able to begin his school education in May last year while still in hospital.
None of the other 540 adults, teenagers and children living in the permanent houses in Jhirruk or still waiting for their houses to be built has been to school.
We know that Rattno's story will have a happy ending as he recovers. We hope that it will see a new beginning through education for him and the children of his village.
This article appeared in the September 2013 issue of The Far East, the magazine of the Columbans in Australia and New Zealand.