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Community connects to Chennai

Kristy Wakem from Enogerra Uniting Church with Veejay, a student at Mahimai Illam, Chengalputta. Photo by Sue Pickering
LAST OCTOBER Rev Sue Pickering led a small group to Chennai, South India, to put their faith in action.

Ms Pickering’s local community in Wilston also got behind the trip with local businesses donating money to projects supported by the Church of South India.

“The aim of the visit was to be challenged by the idea that we believe God has a preference for the poor, that as Easter people we are called to a ministry of reconciliation, feeding the poor, welcoming the stranger, being a voice for the voiceless and vulnerable,” she said.

Ms Pickering, Yvonne Liekefett, Heidi Liekefett, Jill Bryant, Kristy Wakem, Fiona Innes and Margaret Neithe visited ministries of the Church of South India including hospitals, schools, child care centres, a women’s centre and churches.

“We met and spent time with so many amazing people, we were able to spend time listening to stories of faith and struggle.

“We spent a week at a semirural place called Chengalputta.

“During that week we did some teaching and we shared meals together at a home for young people with disabilities, Mahamil Iiam.

“This home had no funding and a warden by the name of Suzie cared for the children and prepared meals for the group
each day.”

Also on site were two schools and two girls’ hostels.

“We engaged with people of great faith, who saw everything they did as an act of worship and an act of obedience to God in their lives.

“Women dedicated their whole lives to caring for the children of others, forfeiting what is seen as the appropriate path for a woman in India, namely getting married and having children of their own.”

The donation from Cafe Conti in Wilston enabled Puthiur, a school for children with disabilities, to purchase a freezer needed to set up a sheltered workshop for women.

Another Wilston business, Abode and Bod, decided to fundraise by asking for a donation for gift wrapping leading up to

They raised $600 for building at Alison Cassie Secondary School.

“Both the cafe and gift shop owners have asked us to keep them updated and let them know if there is anything else they
can support us with,” said Ms Pickering.

“The juxtaposition of wealth and poverty in India is everywhere you turn, which leaves you with the struggle of how can there be such a divide, how can people be living in such dire circumstances in the 21st century?

“I think the challenge we face is not about feeling guilty about our wealth, or the privilege of being middle class, but rather what we do with that and how we live in a world that is full of injustice in a way that is just.

“I am sure these experiences will stay with us forever.”

Photo : Kristy Wakem from Enogerra Uniting Church with Veejay, a student at Mahimai Illam, Chengalputta. Photo by Sue Pickering