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Girls singing at St James' Church of North India, Kangra. Photo taken by Frances Guard.
Girls singing at St James' Church of North India, Kangra. Photo: Frances Guard

Friendship builds future

Relationship, not finance, is king in church partnership. Ashley Thompson talks to UnitingWorld and Maleny Uniting Church about their unique relationship with the church behind the Kangra Girls’ Hostel ministry in northern India.

“[He said,] ‘We don’t want your money. Please don’t just go back home to Australia after your time here and send money to us’,” Paul Moore of Maleny Uniting Church writes, recalling his first encounter with Bishop Samantaroy of the Diocese of Amritsar, Church of North India back in 2005.

It would take five years of relational development and the onset of the Global Financial Crisis—resulting in the sudden withdrawal of a German church’s support in 2009—before Bishop Samantaroy would let his friends from the Uniting Church in Australia assist the Kangra Girls’ Hostel financially.

“The hostel is a place for families who are otherwise unable to send them [their girls] to school. It gives them a home, a good meal and somewhere to be based during the school term,” explains Laura McGilvray, UnitingWorld’s Experience Program Coordinator.

“In India in particular education is not prioritised for girls,” says Laura. “Where a family has had an opportunity to educate their children, boys will take the precedence. However there’s lots of research that says when you educate girls it has a broader impact on society.”

Maleny Uniting Church members Paul and Lyndall Moore are the driving force behind the Sunshine Coast Dostana Group who, with the help of Uniting Church congregations across Australia, have together raised $350 000 in four years. It’s an amount calculated to generate sufficient interest for the permanent funding of 50 places at the Kangra Girls’ Hostel.

The group’s name Dostana, suggested by Bishop Samantaroy, is Hindi for “deep and abiding friendship”.

Maleny Uniting Church Minister Rev Ian Stebhens stresses the importance perpetuity had in the funding strategy and that relationship, as expressed by Bishop Samantaroy, was core to the partnership.

“It was critical to overcome the use of the dependency approach where people in India perceive themselves at the receiving end of project funding and therefore inferior,” says Ian.

Through countless events, appeals and street stalls, the 50th place was fully funded in June this year and celebrated with a thanksgiving service at Maleny Uniting Church.

“Paul [Moore] never dreamed that we would reach the target so quickly … it certainly has been a movement of God’s spirit through the whole church both in Australia and in India that this dream has become a reality,” says Ian.

The group is currently overseas visiting Bishop Samantaroy in north India.

If your congregation is interested in connecting with or supporting a partner church project, contact UnitingWorld on 02 8267 4267.

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