Soeurs de Saint-Joseph de Cluny
          Encounter, Collaboration, Empowerment

Encounter, Collaboration, Empowerment

Response to the signs of the times

This is a story that needs to be told ! Women and children in Diviseema and Kothuru, poor coastal and urban areas in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India, a few Cluny Sisters of the South-east Province of India and a gentlemen from the United Kingdom ! What could they possibly have in common ?

This relationship has been in the making for years. It has evolved from observing, listening, reflecting and acting. That is what ‘reading the signs of the times’ takes … and it has resulted in encounter, collaboration and empowerment.

The Cluny Sisters encounter the women and children each and every day through their ministries. They have also encountered Peter Winchester, a PhD in Development Studies, during his work in the area and a relationship of collaboration was born. As Peter says,

“The reason I admire the sisters so much is because they represent continuity and I would like to help them continue !”

Peter founded the DIVI SEEMA FOUNDATION to help improve the lives of the poorest people in these areas. He does that through supporting the work of the ‘local sisters.’ With the involvement of the sisters, the foundation can assist at a very practical and local level with funds going directly to the most needy and the sisters providing accountability. The collaboration is not however, just between the sisters and the foundation. Through observing, listening to and reflecting with the local women, the collaboration extends to those who are actually in need. It is their voice that is most important.

The empowerment of the local women includes the sisters coordinating women’s saving groups. 10 or 15 local women come together and deposit a small amount of money. The Divi Seema Foundation then matches those savings allowing the women to take out small loans, create small businesses and thus better their lives. There are currently approximately 3,000 women involved. The sisters also provide nursery schools for the small children thus enabling the mothers to work and the older children to continue their education.

The sisters also receive support from the Divi Seema Foundation in their work of empowering children through the hostels and education they provide along with the Children’s Parliaments. Children are taught to cooperate with one another, voice the needs they see in their villages or towns, report those needs to their parents who then bring it to the local government. It is a program focusing on education, awareness and cooperation.

Basic medical services for snake bites, typhoid and back aches are also part of the sisters’ ministry and are supported by the foundation. The sisters provide education in relation to better diets and planting of vegetables. The women then help one another and share the fruits of their labors.

This relationship of ENCOUNTER, COLLABERATION and EMPOWERMENT has to date made a difference in approximately 6,000 families. To really get a better idea of this dynamic relationship between the local women and children, the Cluny Sisters and the Divi Seema Foundation watch the trilogy of films available at : Divi Seema Films

Divi Seema (16:13 mins)

Benefits of Cooperation (5:37 mins)

Divi Seema : Voices of Women (22:43 mins)

Their progress can be seen at : Divi Seema Activities

Their newsletter is available at : Divi Seema Newsletter

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