A Very Dynamic No-Nonsense Woman
Ron is volunteering for three months at Chalice's Assam Sponsor Site, located in Guwahati, India. Having arrived on January 17, he shares with his friends and family (and us!) a few words about his experience thus far:
January 23, 2016
Hope you are all well. I am well and getting acquainted with the set-up here; doing as much as I can.
Chalice is one of a few outreach programs that are run by the Holy Cross Sisters in this convent. Their biggest one is the Women's Development Centre (WDC) programs that are provided in 9 WDC sites in Assam and a neighboring state. WDC is headed by Sr. Betsy, a very dynamic no-nonsense woman. There are about 12 thousand women enrolled in their various programs - Empowering of women; Skills Training; Legal Assistance; Domestic Family Issues; Domestic Small Businesses; to name a few. Chalice has a site in this convent and another sub-site at MER which is about 50 km away where they concentrate on helping children with disabilities.
This convent in Guwahati also provides board and lodge from about 50 young women who are studying for their Higher Secondary School Certificate examination (which is the equivalent of grade 13 in Canada) except that it is State-wide and State-run exam. The nuns and a few hired teachers tutor these girls on all the subjects for one year. This program is provided free and includes girls of any faith. The girls range in age from 16 to 20 and are all high school drop-outs for all sorts of reasons - poverty; domestic abuse, sexual abuse, etc. They come from all parts of Assam and some neighboring states. I have started spending 1/2 hour or so with them each day engaging them conversational English.
The Chalice children at this site (about 80) are provided (among other programs) with after-school learning program from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. and I started helping them with their English homework. I will get involved with the other sub-site once Sr. Sheeba (Assam Site Director) returns from the Chalice Director's Conference.
Sr. Betsy wants to tackle another very big problem (trafficking of young women and female children from villages) in these 7 eastern states. The big problem is funding; so I will be helping with preparation of Funding Application Requests. The ignorance of parents and the good looks and light skin complexion of the young women and girls make them easy targets for exploitation.They are often lured away with false promises of jobs and good adoption and then they never heard from again. They end up in the bigger cities in the sex trade and children put out on the streets to beg.
Yesterday, (Jan 22nd.) I attended the 25th Silver Jubilee celebration of the Archdiocese of Guwahati. It was previously a part of the Archdiocese of Shillong, Meghalaya. The Mass and the whole program was just so well organized. The Mass was a bit long because it included readings and hymns in all the languages spoken in the Archdiocese - Garo, Rabha, Baro. Bodo, Karbi, Sadri, Hindi and of course Assamese and English. The music (traditional drums and other instruments) and participation in the singing was unbelievable. The attendance was estimated at about 10,000 people. After Mass they served a 6 course (rice, dahl, pork curry, chicken curry, salad, and desert) buffet lunch. The food was severed at three stations - VIPs, Clergy, and the general public. I just followed the nuns. On the drive back I casually mentioned to Sr. Betsy that I was surprised there was no offertory collection during Mass and she informed me that there was a collection but it did not come to the section where I was sitting with all the nuns. In her words, waste of time, we have no money.
Anyway, that's all for now.