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In the Pipeline: The feeding of some 25 million

November 22, 2011|By Chris Epting

So an Indian priest, a retired cop and a Thai saleswoman walk into a coffee shop.

No, it's not a joke. Quite the contrary, in fact.

It's three friends coming together at a special event to help some of the most put-upon children on earth.

The Indian priest is Fr. Angelos Sebastian, born in Kerala, India, in 1975. He left his home at age 14 to join the Minor Seminary in the mission Diocese of Ajmer and was ordained a priest in 2001. Fr. Angelos has been with Saint Bonaventure in Huntington Beach since 2007.

The retired cop is Edward Giardina, a parishioner and maintenance man at Saint Bonaventure who was once a highway patrol officer serving in Watts.

And the Thai saleswoman is Angeli Poonsaengsathit, who owns (with her daughter) Monkey House Café at 18862 Beach Blvd.

I had dinner there last week (an excellent chicken sandwich on freshly baked bread) on a night when Poonsaengsathit was holding a fundraiser to support a cause Fr. Angelos began spearheading just over a year ago: the idea of building an orphanage in India, where UNICEF has reported that more than 25 million children live on the streets.

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Poonsaengsathit and Giardina have become board members (along with about a dozen other people) to support Fr. Angelos' vision, which came to him at an early age.

"I grew up seeing children on the streets begging for food," he told me. "People would chase them away, mistreat them, abuse them — it always caused a pain in my heart to see so many children with no parents to love them and no food, education or future. They spend all day and night on the street, subject to every form of abuse you can imagine."

So he decided to do something about it, and in January 2012, he will be taking the board members to visit a site in India that he thinks may be just right for the orphanage: an existing facility that they can renovate.

Giardina plans on making the trip with his friend.

"We're buddies, me and Father," he smiled. "We go out to lunch together. And I get to hear his plans firsthand. There's no way I would not be involved after hearing about the struggles over there."

Everyone on the board donates their time and there's minimal administrative overhead, so just about all of the collected donations — 97%, in fact — go directly into the project, called Orphan Children of India.

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