congregation of sisters, she adds, covers the expenses. “We get no funds from the government,” she explains. This self-sufficiency exists thanks to community initiatives implemented by the sisters at their regional house located in Nakti Semera, such as assembling solar lanterns shipped in bulk from Bangalore. The sisters supplement their income by supplying sacramental wine and communion hosts for the entire eparchy. They also make vestments and cassocks for priests, and train others in this skill. Every sister learns tailoring so she can make her own habit, says Sister Anie John, who directs the sisters’ social works. Empowered by these efforts, the sisters continue to make their mark — perhaps most visibly in their work to educate Adivasi villagers about their rights. According to Noorul Hassan, who coordinates the Snehagiri Sisters’ Harama Hak (“our rights”)
project, villagers were largely unaware — before the sisters’ arrival — of the many legal benefits to which they were entitled. One key example is Gram Sabha (“village council”), designed to help and protect tribal and low-caste communities. In resource-rich India, commercial projects to tap into the supply of natural resources in traditional Adivasi lands require the approval of the local community. Villagers also utilize such gatherings to discuss common problems and seek ways to address them, including working with local municipal offices. “We conducted awareness campaigns, organized rallies and street plays, displayed posters and made public announcements to teach people about the importance of the council meetings,” says the coordinator of the public awareness campaign. Yet, fewer than a tenth of the locals attended the first meetings hosted by the sisters, and most of them were women. But as
women became more involved, their husbands grew curious about the sisters’ work. “My wife would attend and tell me what happened there. I became curious and started coming,” says Dhaniram Kashyap, one of the few educated men in Kesapur village, who has become a leader within his community. Mr. Kashyap says he has learned much from these meetings, and now shares this knowledge with others. The Snehagiri Sisters also reach out to villagers through health care projects, chiefly through the Maria Bhavan Health Care Center, a dispensary outside of Jagdalpur. Sister Sincy Pattathil, who manages the clinic, says the infant and maternal mortality rates in the area were high when they arrived some 20 years ago — nearly twice the national average. She says maternal deaths occurred mainly from anemia, infection and unhygienic delivery that led to septicemia.
“ When we first came, people would run away from us. Now they are our best friends and protectors.”
OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF CNEWA
The official publication of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA)