Gladys Staines, widow of slain Australian missionary Graham Staines, is leaving India on Thursday. She is flying back to her native Australia to take a break and meet her father, who is in his 90s.
She was accompanying her daughter Esther who wants to study medicine in their native land. The latter is virtually a stranger to Australia as she was born and brought up in India. She plans to return to Orissa periodically to monitor a referral hospital in Baripada, her husband's dream project, which she had inaugurated on July 8, 2004.
"I am going for personal reasons but I will come back," she told PTI from Kolkata when asked if she was leaving the country for good. "Please tell everyone that I have nothing against India where I received a lot of love and affection. But I am going for Esther's education and personal reasons," she said.
The Evangelical Missionary Society of Mayurbhanj (EMSM) said Gladys will be away on 'furlough' granted by the society, registered in Australia. "Furlough enables a missionary on a foreign assignment to go home for a period of six to eight months," an EMSM spokesman told PTI from Baripada.
Graham Staines had come to Orissa as a missionary in 1965 and worked for the betterment of leprosy-afflicted people at the EMSM's mission stations at Rairangpur and Baripada. On the night of January 22, 1999, he and his two minor sons, Philip and Timothy, were burnt to death while asleep in a station wagon at Manoharpur in Keonjhar district. The incident had sent shockwaves through the country and abroad.
Gladys continued living in Orissa and resolved to complete the hospital project, the spadework for which was being done by her late husband.
On July 8, she inaugurated the first phase of the Graham Staines Memorial Hospital in Baripada. It comprises a 10-bed hospital located in the mission compound at Baripada and is being run as a joint venture between the Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home Society, affiliated to the EMSM, and the Christian Fellowship Hospital, Oddanchattran (in Dindigul district of Tamil Nadu).
The EMSM spokesman said the second phase of the hospital would come up in an area of 11.56 acres in the leprosy home premises at Murgabadi on the outskirts of Baripada town. The proposed hospital would not only cater to the needs of leprosy patients but would be a general hospital open to all.