Maher Ashram – where destitute gets identity

By Devina Karnik

Located in historic Vadhu Budruk village in Pune district’s Shirur taluka, off Ahmednagar highway about 30 km from Pune city, ‘Maher Ashram’, helps destitute women, children and men and gives them the opportunity to rebuild their lives. The founder of this ashram, Sister Lucy Kurien is a true inspiration and a pillar of strength in our society.

Let’s find out what inspired Sister Lucy to establish this ashram, this is her story:-

Sister Lucy Kurien was born on in 1955 at Kolayad in Kannur district of Kerala. Following some years of formal education, she migrated to Mumbai in 1969 only to be deeply moved and distressed at that tender age by the appalling poverty and squalor in the city. It was natural that she felt a deep inner urge to do something that would make a difference to the life of the poor and famished around her. That led her to decide to join a religious order: the Sisters of the Cross. It was a tough decision since it meant giving up the bliss of independent and free life. But that decision she did take and joined the order in 1980. After 4 years of training, she was professed to the order.

Sr. Lucy joined in 1989 HOPE (Human Organisation for Pioneering in Education) which helped marginalized women to gain modest employment and was founded by one of her own colleagues at the Sisters of the Cross. However, she could no longer be content with sheltered existence at the HOPE and be a silent spectator to horrific violence and abuse against women to which she was witness. A traumatic incident resulting in the death of a pregnant woman and her unborn child at the hands of her drunken husband set the final stage and Sister Lucy decided to devote her life from that moment on exclusively to the cause of battered and destitute women. Thus was born Maher in 1997, today a home for 300 women, 42 men and around 850 children.

Sister Lucy started Maher activities in Vadhu Budruk near Bhima Koregaon on Pune-Ahmednagar highway. Her untiring dedication however soon led to the expansion of the Maheractivities to the nearby areas. These include a range of villages in Shirur, Haveli and Khed talukas as also the city of Ratnagiri in coastal region of Maharashtra. Beyond Maharashtra,Maher has established homes for women and children in Kerala and Jharkhand as well. TodayMaher reaches the life of the poorest of the poor through as many as 23 different projects and as many homes for the destitute children. Maher shelters women, men and children of all ages.

While a devoted Catholic Christian, Sister Lucy has an unshakable faith in confluence of religions of the world in attaining human well-being. She established Maher as an inter-faith organization which seeks the help and blessing of all religions and faiths in its work for the weak and poor around.

She is a recipient of several awards of national and international and has received worldwide recognition for her work. She received Global Women’s Summits 2011 Leadership Award, USA.

The work of Maher has been recently chronicled in detail by two American authors – William Keepin and Cynthia Brix- in their book, Women Healing Women.

Maher has 552 Self Help groups.

Sister Lucy’s dreams are not over. She has many a project in mind for the future of India.  Her dreams are many and she plans to open homes for women and children in every state of the country. At the same time she dreams of a Maher-free India.

We salute Sister Lucy and wish her all the luck for Maher Ashram’s upcoming projects and that these projects succeed in achieving their desired goals.

(Devina Karnik is a student of Fergusson College, Pune)