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INDIA: Global Sisters Report article highlights work of Salesian nuns at Marialaya, a program for girls at-risk

(MissionNewswire) At Marialaya (House of Mary), located in Chennai, India, sisters with Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, also known as the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco, provide programs and rehabilitation for at-risk girls and those living and working on the streets in the northern parts of the city of Chennai.

The Salesian sisters offer a home that accommodates close to 50 girls whose families are in crisis. According to an article in the Global Sisters Report, after three months, participating girls are sent back to their parents or guardians unless there is a need for them to continue with the program for another three months.

The article also notes that Marialaya has expanded its outreach by opening 18 evening centers in different part of Chennai for girls from economically poor families who live at home. Kalpana Subramaniam, a supervisor at Marialaya, said in the article, “these centers assist the girls in their studies and provide informal education for those not attending regular schools.”

Glory Karthik was just 8 years old and living in the slums when a social worker suggested to her parents that they send her to Marialaya. In the article Karthik said, “I felt happy seeing the sisters and girls and expressed my desire to stay there.”

She spent 10 years at Marialaya. Today Karthik is 31 years old and the mother of four children. She makes a living stitching clothes while her husband works for a transport company.

“I’m happy and content now, thanks to the sisters. They prepared me for a decent and dignified life. Otherwise, I would have continued my miserable life in the slum,” said Karthik in the Global Sisters Report when visited by the nuns at Marialaya.

According to the Global Sisters Report article, Marialaya has nurtured more than 2,000 girls like Karthik between the ages of 6 and 18 since its inception in 1990. Today, more than 100 girls live in Marialaya. The programs offered teach the girls communication skills, the English language, problem-solving and money and time management. Girls are also given the opportunity to take vocational courses in desktop publishing, fashion design and bag-making.

Sister Sebastiar Caroline, program coordinator of Marialaya, said in the article, “We also teach them how to work as a team and encourage them to foster relationships, accepting others without prejudice. We nurture leadership by encouraging their talents in singing, dance and other talents.”

Sister Soosai Muthu Arul, Marialaya’s director, noted in the article that many of the girls that come to the center are abandoned, orphaned or have a single parent. Most of them lived on the streets. All come from economically poor backgrounds or slums.

“We try to create a homely atmosphere here to restore human dignity in them,” said Sr. Arul to the reporter from the Global Sisters Report. “They also get necessary opportunities and facilities to grow healthy in mind and body.”

The new Marialaya evening outreach centers encourage parents to send their daughters to regular school. Sister Caroline cited the case of a Hindu girl, Lakshmi, in the article.

“Her parents were not interested in sending her to school because they believed that all a girl needs to know is how to do household works,” said Sr. Caroline.

A Marialaya staff member who works with children on the streets convinced Lakshmi to join informal classes in the evening. The staff also counseled the girl and her parents. Sister Caroline added, “We made them understand how education would help not only their daughter but eventually take the family out of poverty.” The parents relented, and Lakshmi is now a 10th-grader at a local school.

Sister Arul noted in the article that Marialaya continues its work because of donations from well-wishers, philanthropists and partner agencies in developed countries. The Tamil Nadu state government also awards Marialaya grants.

India has the world’s fourth largest economy but more than 22 percent of the country lives in poverty. About 31 percent of the world’s multidimensionally poor children live in India, according to a new report by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative.

India’s youth face a lack of educational opportunities due to issues of caste, class and gender. Almost 44 percent of the workforce is illiterate and less than 10 percent of the working-age population has completed a secondary education. In addition, many secondary school graduates do not have the knowledge and skills to compete in today’s changing job market.

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Sources:

Global Sisters Report – At Marialaya, girls from India’s slums find home, nurture and a future

Marialaya

World Bank – India

Salesian Missions – India