One step at a time in Musunuru

The lush green trees on the campus of Nazareth Preranalaya, Musunuru provide a refreshing oasis in this small hamlet spread over eight and a half square miles. With its average weather in summer between 105 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit, Musunuru is a typical sultry tropical village in the state of Andhra Pradesh. To visitors and sometimes residents, the hot temperatures can be oppressive and often challenging, yet the area is often abuzz with activity.

Young women attend tailoring classes at Preranalaya Social Development Center in Musunuru, India.

Since 2009, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have been reaching out to the 16 villages of Musunuru with the vision of empowering women and children, and to care for the Earth. A visit to Preranalaya Social Development Centre (PSDC), headed by SCN Ann Moyalan and assisted by SCN Jetti Swarupa Rani, clearly shows the enormous involvement of the Sisters in the lives of the villagers. Sisters Ann and Swarupa typically begin their day at 5:45 a.m with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist in the parish church, followed by community prayer and breakfast. Each day, the Sisters say, brings new challenges. The staff gathers after prayer to share any significant event of the previous day. Program animators then go to the villages to prepare the people for their weekly or sometimes bi-weekly awareness programs.

Sister Ann says her sole motivation for ministry, especially in challenging areas, is the Word of God. Jesus stands as an example to her. As she moves about in the villages, she frequently tells herself, “Jesus probably moved around in a similar manner.”

Daily she faces life and death matters, like natural disasters and epidemics. Monsoons in India often lead to epidemics, and 2016 was no exception. The deadly dengue and viral epidemics threatened to kill many unsuspecting victims. A nurse by education, Sister Ann knew something had to be initiated to minimize the threat of dengue. Appointed by the Department of Health to be a member of a surveillance committee, Sister Ann, along with Sister Swarupa and their team at PSDC, began a three-month process involving a door-to-door survey followed by analysis of the data. They raised awareness of the threat of dengue and preventive measures through skits and talks in various villages from September to November 2016. Their initiatives were rewarded as no deaths due to dengue were registered in the area. There were approximately 28,000 reported cases of dengue across the nation last year.

The team at PSDC also joined the “Clean India” movement and worked to address sanitation issues including a lack of toilets in the village. Through street plays, surveys and awareness classes the team encouraged the local villagers to install toilets. As a result, 267 toilets were built in the 16 villages where Sisters minister. Sister Ann proudly shares, “Vincentian charism of systemic change has taken root already here and we know there can only be continued improvements.”

“Education is imperative to progress,” say both these Sisters. Farming culture and demands of daily tasks often take a toll on children and so a vast majority of the populace are elementary school dropouts. Thus, when PSDC set out to offer skills training to the women of Musunuru, Sister Ann also saw in it an opportunity to educate the trainees academically. Today, the trainees as well the trainers are motivated to complete higher levels of learning. Little changes such as these make them believe larger transformations are not far away. Sisters Ann and Swarupa were quick to add, “not all our efforts have been successful; but failures have helped us better understand our mission.”

The people of Musunuru look to PSDC as they walk the path of progress. Thanks to the generosity of donors, a newly constructed building at Nazareth Preranalaya is set to provide housing for young girls and to train women for a brighter future. When asked what she envisions for this new venture, Sister Ann shares, “We want to expand our tailoring program from basic level to special designing level. We want to regularize the tailoring course to meet the government standards and make this course a recognized government diploma program. We want to link the center to garment outlets and help our women to be successful entrepreneurs.”

Sisters Swarupa and Ann work together with the hope the presence of Sisters here will help eradicate illiteracy, superstitions, child marriage and domestic violence. They say they hope to see a society where every human being is respected and families uphold the gift of a girl child. Adding these efforts will take them on a long journey … which they will make one step at a time.