This true story is all about grace. It starts with early days of experiencing rejection, then gradually reformation and finally reaching out to others!
Gene was the youngest of 4 siblings ..who were much older ; the brother 13yrs older, and two sisters 8 and 9 years older.
Due to financial constraints, first his father went to the Middle East ( where earnings were good) and then his mother. All his older siblings moved out into jobs of their own. As a result Gene was left alone.
He came home from high school and college to an empty home.
Many years later his father finally returned to be with Gene and hoped to make up for the lost years. But within 15 days his father passed away.
Lonliness ate into Gene … though he pretended to be okay during the day, when his neighbours met him. To escape this lonliness he watched movies every night ….sometimes the same movie 10 times
Gradually he got the taste of alcohol , charas and ganja…
He stopped going to church for 5 years.
When addiction set in he tried to kick the habit but failed repeatedly ; until he came across the 12step method followed by the participants of the Alcoholic Anonymous programme.
The motto “ One day at a time” had a great impact on his life.
His mother also returned after some years. She encouraged Gene with the simple motto; when there are many closed doors, you will find one which will open. She prayed for Gene fervently.
He started going to church again, and realised that he gained strength from the Eucharist to overcome his weaknesses. His prayer to the Lord was “ help me just today to be free of addiction”. This was his prayer daily.
He did this for 6 months and realised that he was getting renewed. Thereafter he spent two to three hours daily, before the Lord and received immense grace.
He did not know how to begin life anew. So he visited Asha Dhaan every day from 6.30am morning to 6.30 pm. He began the day with the nuns at the Eucharist and did odd jobs at the centre. Sweeping, cleaning, helping the destitute by shaving, cutting nails and many other simple jobs.
After 6 months of volunteering at Asha Dhaan with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, he discovered his vocation, to reach out to destitutes specially those addicted to drugs and alcohol
He was greatly encouraged by the Sister in charge. He also remembered Mother Theresa’s words “ to help others, one should help oneself…fill one’s belly first and then one learns to help others.”.
He then started being a Sales man for Encyclopedias. He also trained to be an athlete inspite of having a handicap of the right hand. Later he started sales of building materials. He volunteered to request Pharmaceutical companies to donate drugs which the destitutes needed in the various homes.
He led a life of “ do not worry about tomorrow” and went on the streets to help many addicts and street urchins. He even shared his meals with them on the pavement.
Soon he volunteered his services to Don Bosco’s Shelter , and met his mate in Shobha. She influenced him to get more organized and start a Trust . This was the beginning of Jeevan Dhara, which means Lifeline.
He continued to visit the chapel and faithfully till this day spends at least 2 to 3 hours before the Lord. This is where he gets all his wisdom, grace and perseverance to continue .
Life is not a bed of roses even now. Gene continues to carry his cross bravely.
Of course the nature of his trials comes in many other forms. Now there are people who question his integrity. As a result of envy, there are times, when he faces opposition, even while compassionately serving the poor and destitute. He has already been recognised in the church for yeoman service, with the “Fr. Salvadore Rodrigues Award” by the Catholic Sabha, in 2015 and 6 months later was given an award by the Siddhvinayak Temple Trust during the Diwali Festival.
His main refuge and fortress is the chapel , in the presence of the Lord, who gives him strength for each day.
He encourages people with his motto “ One day at at time” . I have been greatly influenced by his faith, and perseverance; to give prime time to the Lord, in silent prayer. He is an outstanding example of what the Lord can do to strengthen the weak.
He has started centres in Cheeta Camp ( one of the big slums of Mumbai), Mankhurd, and Lonavala . He extends help to the families of drug addicts, alcoholics and aids affected. He had also started centres in Colaba, and Dahanu, but had to give it up, after opposition from unexpected quarters. His main focus is to help those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, to go through a program of deaddiction. He also has included an outreach to help the aids affected persons. Most of these afflicted are people with limited finances. In addition , Gene has Study centres( Baalwadis) for children and youth of the affected families. In keeping with the interest of Football, he has started a coaching programme for the youth in the slums and has a talented Nigerian who serves as coach.
Gene has such a kind nature, that he can walk into any area, even the most dangerous slums or bastis, without being harmed. He has been accepted as one , who has no hidden agenda, but only the good of those he helps.
Funds keep coming in to help him in this work. However , it is never enough. He remembers a quote of his Mentor Fr, Richard Lane Smith, which helps him keep his feet on the ground
“ When Funds come in, do not get carried away by them. Be strong in faith”
Thus Gene soldiers on, one day at a time , to serve those in need , with his eyes fixed on Jesus.
No wonder, he was at one time known as the Street Messiah.
As he continues his work with ‘ Jeevan Dhara’ , he is ably assisted by his wife Shobha. He is also blest with a beautiful and talented daughter, Sasha. She is still in primary school, but shines in sports and studies.
In conclusion, I am reminded of the words from Sirach 35:16,17
‘The one who serves God wholeheartedly will be heard;
his petition will reach out to the clouds.
The prayer of the humble person
pierces the clouds,
and he is not consoled until he has been heard.’
Indeed Gene’s lifeline is the Lord Himself!
Gene D’Silva can be contacted on
7,Rear Helal bldg ; Dr. Mascarenhas road,
Mazagon, Mumbai, 4000010