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Last Updated: Monday, 22 September, 2003, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
Widow keeps missionary's memory alive
By Soutik Biswas
BBC News Online

Gladys Staines still lives in India, nearly five years after her Australian missionary husband Graham and their two young sons were burnt alive by a mob in the eastern state of Orissa.

Gladys Staines
Gladys Staines: Never thought of returning to Australia
The softly-spoken 52-year-old is carrying on her husband's good work, running his home for leprosy patients on a sprawling 36-acre campus in the town of Baripada.

Mrs Staines says she never contemplated returning home to Australia, where her father and five brothers and sisters live, after the horrific events of January 1999.

"I never felt scared, only overwhelmed after the tragedy," she told BBC News Online.

"There are always people to discourage you and tell you to wind up, but my father turned up to be my biggest support."

She says her father, who is 90, asked her to stay on in India and continue her work.

"If my father asks me to stay on, I do not need to have any doubts about it, do I?"

Mr Staines's dreams

So she has stayed on - and worked hard at realising her murdered husband's dreams.

Mrs Staines is building a clinic in memory of her husband, who arrived in dirt-poor Orissa in the 1960s.

The new 10-bed clinic, complete with operation theatre and maternity ward, will open to the public in January.

Gladys Staines also plans to realise her husband's "big" dream by setting up a 40-bed general hospital in the leprosy patients' home campus.

The feeling of enormous loss of losing your husband and two children keeps coming back again and again
Gladys Staines
She has already managed to raise 10 million rupees (nearly $220,000) from donations in India and abroad to build the Graham Staines Memorial Hospital.

Most of Mrs Staines' time is spent looking after the home for leprosy sufferers, where 65 patients receive treatment, as well as being taught dairy farming and rope craft, among other things.

"I spend most of time in Baripada looking after the affairs of the home and the clinic. Otherwise, I travel around in India talking about our work and how I cope with the tragedy," she says.

It has not been easy.

"The feeling of this enormous loss of losing your husband and two children keeps coming back again and again. I manage to cope with it."

Jeep in which Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt alive
The Staines were burnt alive in their vehicle
"It helps that local people are very supportive of what we do, and I continue to feel at home."

Mrs Staines says she has managed to cope because of the love and support of local people and her faith in Jesus Christ.

"Many people have prayed for me. And God helps me all the time. He is not some distant God, he is very personal. It is a day to day personal relationship that I have with God and he has always been with me," she says.

Mrs Staines, who lives in a bungalow in Baripada, refuses to let the tragedy come in the way of her work and life.

Esther, her 17-year-old daughter and the only other surviving member of the family, continues to study in the southern Indian hill town of Ooty in Tamil Nadu.

She comes to Baripada during term breaks.

"When she is here, she helps her mother in her work. Otherwise, she's busy with her high school," says Subhankar Ghosh, an old friend of the Staines family and a botany teacher.

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