Sister Stella and Judith Wilcox, Chair of the CSMV Trustees, and Nick Clarke, the photographer, visited the Society of St Mary the Virgin at Panch Howd, Pune in India in early January 2016: Judith & Nick for five days & Sister Stella was able to stay for 11 days. SSMVI is the independent charity that took over the work that CSMV had run for over 100 years. SSMVI now oversees the work of three all-age schools with children from economically deprived backgrounds. It runs a hostel for girls & young women aged between 4 & 16 . Many are orphans, street children, children of sex workers, those with a single parent or from broken families. It also runs a home for elderly women & offers a base for a day care centre for pre-school aged children. Apart from one school (about 70 kms from Pune) the units are closely adjoined in a mission compound. A small administration team is based there & manages the finances of the charity.
The aim of the visit was to affirm our friendship & to support the dedicated work being done by SSMVI. It enabled us to meet & talk with the Administrators, Head Teachers & members of the Governing Body about the needs & vision for the future. We were welcomed as honoured guests throughout the carefully arranged programme & were received with great care & affection wherever we went: showered with petals, garlanded & presented with gifts. Each institution produced well-rehearsed cultural shows: singing, mime, classical & modern dance. Classes stopped & greeted us as we were shown round, while some of the older children shared with us about what they were learning. Sr.Stella much enjoyed leading a discussion with a lively class of 13 year olds, who were keen to participate. It was altogether an immensely worthwhile visit.
SSMVI would be open to volunteers from the UK, recommended by CSMV, working for an agreed period, perhaps in a student gap year or at a later stage in life. If interested, please be in touch with Sr. Stella: firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information see ‘Wantage Overseas’ under ‘Community Life’ above.