Velma Harasen - Regina, SK and Cecile Miller - Cape Breton, NS
We first visited SAHAJ Community Hospital which had a pharmacy, doctor’s office, X-ray room, referral services, an OPD, and an emergency room. They have nine full-time and five part-time staff. Plans are underway to add to the facility and build a fifty-one-bed hospital. He bricks are already on the premises. This hospital is the result of an independent study done by a student from Nepal when he was a diploma student at the Coady in 2002.
The next meeting was at the Gaindakot Sahamati, an institution for equitable development. There is eighty-nine paid staff; the rest are volunteers. Four Coady graduates were instrumental in developing Sahamati whose target community is women, the marginalized, children and survivors. Their vision is to create a “conscious, capable and equitable society”.
We then walked to the Herbal Co-operative which was started two years ago. It provides a good income for workers who sell their produce to local markets and in Kathmandu. There are thirty-three members, and they have eleven types of products produced by 880 people.
The next stop was at the Trinetra Community Development Federation. Operating since 1995, its vision is to build a healthy and self-reliant society. There are 114 volunteer members, and their major working areas include: community health, reaching remote areas where there is a scarcity of safe drinking water, sanitation, food security, income generation through saving and credit co-operatives, social mobilization and education. The estimated population which benefits through various programs is 50,928. “This is a step forward toward a healthy and self-reliant society.”
Then, we visited the Vijaya Development Resource Centre (VDRC). It is a member-based, non-governmental, non-profit social development organization working for social transformation. It has been working in the community development field for the last thirty years, and we saw what was being done in Gaindakot. Coady graduates had opportunities to participate in the Community Development Course at the Coady and have promoted that approach in their program area. We visited the Savings and Credit Co-operative, the Community Radio Station, and their local school, a community education co-operative. Classes in the school go to grade ten, but it is hoped that they will be upgrade to grade twelve soon.
One of the main sources of hope we saw in India was in the area of microfinance. The work of the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) is to be especially commended. SEWA is a union with over one million poor, self-employed women workers with members from nine states. One of its achievements is the SEWA Bank which provides places for the poor and marginalized to save and borrow money. It was established in 1974 at the initiative of 4000 self-employed women. They each deposited ten rupees as their share. Some of the purposes of the bank are: to help women save money, provide credit, promote insurance benefits, and to release women from the clutches of unscrupulous moneylenders. There are now 400 000 depositors and 65 000 borrowers. The motto of the bank is “to make the poor, self-employed economically strong, safe, sound and self-reliant”. SEWA Bank is still growing. It wants to reach out to the 96% of all women workers in India who are engaged in the unorganized sector.
Classes in financial literacy are taught so that women are empowered through learning how to use wisely the small amount of money they earn, so they can improve their situation in life. SEWA Bank embodies the message of Dr. Moses Coady whose work in adult education led to the founding of the Coady. The Bank’s mission is to provide members financial assistance from birth to old age. In many of the projects we visited in India, SEWA Bank was involved. The Coady association with SEWA began in the mid 1990’s.
(above) Financial instruction in the classroom at SEWA Bank.
In Nepal, we were impressed with the organizational skills, enthusiasm, commitment, optimism of the leaders, their concrete plans for the future, and their deep and sincere gratitude to the Coady and its programs which have contributed to the successful development of their communities.
Dr. Coady once said, “People will use what they have to secure what they have not.” Over and over again, in India and Nepal, we saw the wisdom of these words. What a different world we would have if the Coady message could reach more people. However, the truth of the matter is that finances are very limited at the Coady. Of the billions allocated for foreign development by the government of Canada, only $1 million is allotted to the Coady. The questions then for us as members of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada are: What can we do to make the Canadian Government more aware of the value of Coady in the global community and the necessity for more financial assistance? What can we do to encourage more donations to the Coady?
The Coady International Institute can be proud of their 5000 graduates in over 130 countries. Those we met could not say enough good things about their studies, their experience at Coady and how they were welcomed and embraced by the community of Antigonish. No doubt, the rest of the grads feel the same way. We too should be proud of the work of the Coady and our long-standing support of the Institute.
Cecile, Mary Coyle and Velma in Nepal.