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Good Shepherd Convent, Mangalagiri - Andhra Pradesh

His Excellency Ignatius Mummadi, the Bishop of Guntur diocese invited the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to open a house in his diocese and offered a plot of land measuring 3 acres and ¾ cent with an old bungalow. The sisters responded to this invitation and opened their first convent at Mangalagiri in Andhra Pradesh in June 1967. Sr. Mary Rita Rozario and Sr. John de Britto were the pioneers of this new foundation. Since the house was not ready for the sisters to stay, they stayed in Vijayawada with the Sisters of Franciscan Missionary of Mary from 21st June 1967. Good Shepherd pre-school was started on 1st July 1967 with 40 children. Sisters used to come from Maris Stella College every day till the their residence was ready.

On 11th July of the same year they left Maris Stella College with hearts full of gratitude for the happy days spent there. On 12th July the sisters started their life in Mangalagiri with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

On 24th Sept 1970 there was a very bad accident as one of our rickshaw left our school premises taking the children home. A lorry struck the cycle rick from behind and three little ones were killed on the spot and three were seriously injured. It was a very shocking and heartbreaking experience for all of us who were connected with the school. After this incident there was a decline in the number of children for admission.

On 21st February 1972 we opened a small Dispensary in the premises of Mary Anne parish Church in order to provide health care to the poor people of the neighborhood.

In 1973 we had the General Chapter and for the first time a document on Justice and peace was brought out. A few of our sisters had attended a session in Philippines in 1972 on the reality of the poor in Asia. These two echo sessions in the Province helped the sisters to realize that they need to be catering to the poor in rural areas. As a result of this reflection process on 18th April 1975, Good Shepherd English Medium School was closed and sisters began some work with the poor. Sr. Rosemary Robert went for a short course to ISI Bangalore and equipped herself for Social work.

On 16th January 1975 the Good Shepherd Convent, Mangalagiri was registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act of 1886. Sisters started literacy classes for the poor children in Dolas Nagar and other neighboring villages around. On 1st November 1976, a Telugu Medium Primary School was opened in Nulakapetta at the request of the people and the support of the government.

In 1977 there was a very destructive cyclone which claimed thousands of lives, houses were destroyed and washed away and the rice fields were filled with salt water in Krishna and Guntur districts. Sisters carried out relief services with CRS in the Diocese. Oxfam from Bangalore wanted to do a long term service to the people who were affected by the cyclone. They used our big bungalow for that purpose for one year and the sisters renovated the small building and shifted their residence to that building. The dispensary was functioning from morning till evening in one of the classrooms in the school building.

In 1980 the people of Nulakapetta faced the problem of someone quarrying just behind their houses causing a great threat to their own lives and property. Since the man quarrying was rich and influential the people could not get justice easily. With the assistance of P.D. Mathew S. J. the sisters and people approached the Supreme Court for justice. After four years of legal battle the verdict was given in favour of the people. The victory of the people in 1984 was the victory of the poor. It was a process of learning, empowering and liberating the people with the sisters accompanying them at every step.

On 18th August 1982 two sisters shifted to Mandadam village and lived in a small house among the dalits. From 1984 all four sisters began to stay in Mandadam and only for the weekends the sisters returned to Mangalagiri. The sisters began to reflect whether they needed all the land and the building when they were not making use of it for several years. Since the Salasian Priests who were taking care of the physically challenged children wanted to have a separate residence for the smaller ones requested us to take care of them in our old bungalow. We could not oblige them as we found it not in line with our charism. Sisters of St. Anne from Vijayawada were brought in, the building and the land was handed over to them keeping only 40 cents of land and the school building for us. The property was gifted to us hence it could not be sold.

By 1986 the sisters spread their services to more villages by starting Balawadis and Mahila mandals. The coordination of this work could not be done from Mandadam where they had only a single room. The Sisters became aware of atrocities on women and children and began an organization called Aadavalla hakula Sangam (Organization for women’s rights) in 1987. The sisters involved themselves very actively, took up many cases of atrocities on women and girls and got justice for the victims through fact finding and publishing the same in the media. The sisters’ involvement in grass root level to empower women and fact finding of many cases led to further their net work with other like - minded NGOs within the district and beyond. Sisters were part of a state level net work for the landless agricultural workers too. In 1988 the sisters shifted back from Mandadam to Mangalagiri. The activities and programs spread to more than 30 villages, organizing training programs for women and study classes with other NGO’s were a regular feature in Mangalagiri. Sisters were considered to be very radical during those years since many rallies and dharnas for the rights of the victims revealed the Sister’s commitment for the cause. By the end of nineteen nineties the Mahila Mandals were asked to become part of a state level network which would empower them to have a collective voice in a bigger forum and 60 Mahila Mandals became part of the state level network in the year 2000.

In the year 2001 we requested sisters of St. Anne to give a piece of land to build Karunalayam a centre for rescue and rehabilitation of girl children, along with sisters’ residence and they were kind enough to gift to us half an acre of land which was registered on 30th April 2002. The Good Shepherd Convent and Karunalayam were inaugurated on 13th December 2003 and blessed by Rt. Rev. Gali Bali, bishop of Guntur.

Services:

KARUNALAYAM:

Centre for Street and Disadvantaged Girl Children: karunalayam, a centre for rescue and rehabilitation of girl children, was started in the year 2000 in response to the ever- growing incidences of abuse against girl children in and around the city of Vijayawada. Karunalayam picks up girls who are pushed to the streets as a result of family instability, violence and economic circumstances and thus become vulnerable to exploitation.

ABOLITION OF CHILD LABOUR
• Motivating the child labourers
• Mainstreaming them into the formal education system
• Motivation cum educational centers in the villages
• Children’s parliaments
• Child Rights Protection Forums
• Girl child protection Forums

Community development Programmes
• Support towards building Houses
• Economic development programmes
• Creating awareness on different laws & Acts
• Youth girls groups
• Women’s groups
• Networking
• Advocacy & lobbying
• Creating awareness through street plays, rallies and distribution of IEC materials (Information, education and communication)
• Mobilization of Govt. schemes

CHALICE SPONSORSHIP PROGRAMME
• Support towards the formal education and professional trainings for the poor children through chalice sponsorship programmes

HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION & LEGAL AID
• Settling the family disputes in the legal Aid office
• Taking up atrocity and abuse cases on dalits, women and children
• Rendering justice to the domestic violence cases through mediation
• Referring the cases to the police station and to the court
• Sensitizing the police and the media
• Organizing public hearing
• Taking up the village issues through Para Legal Workers


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