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INDIA: Salesian Sister Nancy Pereira launched FIDES micro-credit project in 1993, helping the poor and families in need


(MissionNewswire) Sister Nancy Pereira, who passed away July 14, 2010, was a determined Salesian Sister who founded and directed FIDES (Family Integral Development and Education Scheme). She remains a household name in the slum of Ulsoor in Karnataka, India, for her work with women and the poor.

According to a Global Sisters Report article, Sr. Pereira started FIDES in 1993 by opening a bank called “Fund for the Poor” for the development of families. It was modeled on the work of Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize-winning founder of the Grameen Bank, micro-giving, saving and small credit.

In villages, Sr. Pereira offered credit through FIDES to families, especially women. FIDES also provided education to the entire family. To access credit, people demonstrated that they had regularly saved small amounts of money for a year, then they participated in group meetings, which managed the credits for minimum interest.

In the Global Sisters Report article, one woman who was helped by Sr. Pereira noted, “We were like worms. Sister Nancy came and cleaned our wounds. It is because of her we have this standard of living. My mom was a domestic servant, and I lost my dad when young. Today, I have a very good job.”

Through the FIDES project, there was also the development of two cooperatives, two bakeries, two printing houses, a restaurant and several small factories. In addition, Sr. Pereira saw to the hygiene, health, nutrition and care of newborns. Within eight years of ministry in Bangalore, Sr. Pereira was able to ensure 3,000 families had two meals per day. Children began attending schools, women were working and alcoholism was greatly reduced.

Sr. Pereira received several international awards. On Dec. 27, 2000, the central telephone line at the Salesian Sisters’ motherhouse in Rome, Italy, was inundated with calls after people viewed a documentary about the FIDES project, according to the article in the Global Sisters Report. People were calling to see how they could send Sr. Pereira donations.

Sr. Pereira wasn’t inclined toward this simple philanthropic approach, but instead focused her efforts on economical and productive strategies which provided people a way to change their way of thinking and commit themselves to productive tasks. St. John Paul II defined Sr. Pereira as an indefatigable entrepreneur of the poor.

Today, Sr. Celine Jacob, the provincial of the Salesian Sisters with Daughters of Mary Help of Christians of Bangalore, and her team ensure that Sr. Pereira’s work with those living in the slum continues.

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 report by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. A multidimensionally poor child is one who lacks at least one-third of 10 indicators, grouped into three dimensions of poverty: health, education and standard of living.

Salesian programs across India are primarily focused on education. Salesian primary and secondary education in the country helps youth prepare for later technical, vocational or university study. Other programs help to support poor youth and their families by meeting the basic needs of shelter, proper nutrition and medical care.



Global Sisters Report – Sisters use funds, microloans to empower women, small businesses

Salesian Missions – India

World Bank – India

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