Sisterhood: Turning on the Taps

Posted on March 8, 2017 under Storytelling with 2 comments

500 Indian women walking on International Women’s Day

“ We are family; I got all my sisters with me.”

We Are Family. Sister Sledge.

They are the healers and providers.

It all started with a chance meeting at a community dinner in Antigonish in the fall of 2016.

 Sister Archana Das, the Executive Director of the Stella Maris Institute of Development Studies in Southern India and a student at Coady, was present at the event. We struck up a conversation and when she heard that I would be traveling to India, she invited me to come to the convent. Her congregation, The Daughters of Mary, are social workers at heart. They run several programs including 11 orphanages, two facilities for mentally ill women and an old age home.

Twenty two years ago, under the guiding hand of Sister Archana, a leprosy community was established on a property next door to the convent. During all of this time, the Sisters have provided nourishment for the body and the soul as well as free water, electricity and medical supplies.

Sister Archana had heard about the Coady Institute through friends and decided to apply for admission. She was successful and with the financial support of the Federal Government, the C.W.L and the Sisters of St. Martha, she attended the Fall session.

The Sisters of St. Martha know a thing or two about caring. They have been health care providers for decades having established St. Martha’s Hospital, currently a regional facility. They are educators and social workers.  In addition to this, they have reached out to the community at home and abroad providing support to many organizations including the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre.  Back in the early 80’s, they were instrumental in helping CACL get on a strong financial footing.

I decided to take up Sister Archana’s offer and “ entered the convent” on December 30, 2016. It didn’t take me long to realize the ethos of the Sisters. They work with the poorest of the poor. They are kind, humble and very hard working women.

One of the first places that they showed me was the leprosy colony. While there are no active cases of this dreadful disease in the community, the physical and psychological scars are still evident. These are ordinary people who were dealt a bad hand and have spent a lifetime of being shunned and marginalized.

Despite the heroic effort of the Sisters, they face many challenges. The Indian government no longer provides financial support to the facilities operated by the Sisters and foreign aid has all but dried up.

As mentioned, the leprosy community has a supply of fresh water but the 60 homes are served by only 10 outdoor water taps. As part of a fundraising initiative, it was decided that now was the time to rectify this situation. The “Fifty Taps” project was launched a few weeks ago encouraging individuals to contribute $100 to purchase a tap. The overall cost of the project was $6000 which included the installation of a second water holding tank. Several people immediately stepped forward with donations totalling $1,000.

The Wishing Well Society is well known in the Antigonish area. They have been in existence since 2000. Their mission is “ to provide financial assistance where needed for sustainable water systems to improve the quality of life in rural communities.” Some of the Society’s Board members became aware of the plight of the leprosy community through social media and decided to step up in a major way. At a recent Board meeting they decided to fund the remaining $5,000.

The Wishing Well Society receives donations from individuals , businesses and other groups. One of those groups is the Sisters of St. Martha. I was informed that the $5,000 being committed was a contribution from the Martha’s, the same group that helped bring Sister Archana to Antigonish in the first place.

In a remarkable coincidence, two religious orders, half a world apart , have joined hands to help those who cannot help themselves. Bringing water to the doorsteps of those affected with leprosy is a game changer.

When the people at the leprosy community turn on their new taps for the first time, they can thank the Daughters of Mary who are their neighbors , along with the Sisters of St. Martha’s and private donors from across Canada.

On this International Women’s Day, let us celebrate Sisterhood.

It’s a small world after all.

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Comments

2 Responses to Sisterhood: Turning on the Taps

  1. Sharon Pinkohs says:

    Len,

    Chills, chills and more chills, that is what goes through my body whenever I read a story like this! It is so heartwarming, you’d never think one would be chilled to the bone but it’s a thrill to see how projects can be so satisfying to those in India and how those projects have a return that is definitely not like the returns we get from our investments these days. You are what more Canadians need to embody, more goodness, charity and help for those who need and appreciate it the most! It’s pleasantly refreshing.

    Sincerely yours while trying to incorporate more selflessness into my life,

    Sharon

    I read at the library yesterday that you will be doing one of the working lunches, sure hope to attend.

  2. … not to mention you Len PD MacDonald. As Sr Donna Sisters of St. Martha of Antigonish said when she learned their donation to Wishing Wells was going to the Daughters of Mary “You throw your lines out and you never know where they’re going to go.” Thanks Len for throwing your lines out too.

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