From Australia to India
In the month of October, Australian Church Women (ACW) hold a service for the second of their two annual special days. This event is World Community Day, and it represents the desire of Church women to fellowship and pray together for peace and justice.
These days, the general offering from the World Community Day services is shared equally between a special project and the Asian Church Women’s Conference. Back in 1978, the general offering was allocated just to the special project which, for that year, was the Narmada Education Academy in Satara, India. The Women at Work ACW newsletter contained two reports on this proposed project in the May 1978 edition.
Firstly, one from Marie McCann, who was the Publicity Officer for the NSW Unit. Marie wrote:
‘Deaconess Mary Andrews gave a most interesting talk at the A.C.W. (NSW State Unit) March Council meeting, reporting on the work of Kalpana Airan, recipient of the 1973 Winifred Kiek Scholarship.
‘Deaconess Andrews had a lengthy and glowing report on Kalpana's work by Mr. A/ Gray [Grey] of the Adult Education Department of Sydney University under whom Kalpana studied.
‘Mr. Gray [Grey] visited her Family Education Centre in Satara in the mountains 185 miles from Bombay, where she had established a parent-child education centre. These participants, previous to her efforts were too ashamed of themselves to even look up and had no skills at all. Now these women are at ease in manner and can enjoy being part of a group where a meaningful and useful routine has been established, including crafts, sewing and hobbies on the five week-days, for three hours in the afternoon.
‘A.C.W. members are happy to have assisted Kalpana to obtain the knowledge to help her people and to be sharing in prayers for the success of her work.’
In her studies at the Sydney University, Kalpana completed three levels of the Special Parent Education Certificate to a very good level of attainment and was permitted to continue her three remaining units by correspondence, as she was commended by Mr A Grey, her Project Coordinator, as a suitable candidate for this study arrangement.
When Kalpana set up the Family Education Project, she began with eight mothers and their children from the ‘untouchable’ caste. Even though untouchability was prohibited in 1950, the discrimination and abuse against these people continued.
The second newsletter report begins with an invitation from Kalpana, who was now the Principal of the Narmada Education Academy. (Her father, Dr Judson William Airan, established the school in 1970.)
"I am very happy to inform you that the construction of the Project Building which was begun in January, 1977 is now complete and the building will be formally opened at 5 p.m. on Saturday, 29th April, 1978. We cordially invite you to this function. I know you cannot come because of the distance but I am sure you will be thinking of us, of our school and the Project during that time. The Collectos of Satara will preside. Mrs. Patel (Terre Des Hommes) will open the building, Professor W. L. Kulkarni, formerly head of the Marathi Dept., University of Bombay and a very well known writer will deliver the main address. Our school children will have various roles to play in the variety entertainment programme. It will be a colourful occasion. We will take pictures and if they come out all right, we will send you some … "
The report continues with the following:
‘This Project which is proceeding in Satara is causing a great deal of attention, and importand [sic] people are watching developments with interest. It is being asked why no one thought of this method of integrating people before, and why politicians had not automatically seen its value for the nation of tomorrow.
‘At the College in Bombay where they are training people in the development of fami1y education in villages and towns, students have been sent on this long journey of 185 miles to see the project and other groups have been sent to study it so that they can try it in their own area. So the work is spreading fast and God has allowed us to share in something that is going to benefit the peoples of India, not just in dozens of women and children as Kalpana is doing, but hundreds and thousands and even millions of people.
‘It is a wonderful way of integrating people and helping whole communities to accept each other; to grow and develop as individuals and become people who have respectability and acceptance in the whole of the community, with gifts and talents that can be used.
‘But Kalpana is ready to take the next step forward. It has been suggested that she should have a Social Worker who would go into the villages and encourage the women and children to come into the project, develop their own initiatives, and so be able to start up similar ones, without having to come into the school. She needs more teachers and considerably more work books.
‘Kalpana also hopes to start a school for boys to be brought in and educated in a proper set up; as well as a hobby centre, so that those who live nearby could be taught various crafts.
‘Without doubt, the Narmada Education Academy is unique and will initiate a process of integration which may well extend right throughout India.’
The writer of this report is not identified in the ACW newsletter.
The Special Project chosen for 2021–22 is ‘Kick Start Your Life’, which is also an education programme, and it is run by the WA Mums Cottage. The programme has both formal and informal aims to create adaptive and positive behaviours in a two-hour session one morning a week for ten weeks. Mums Cottage is a community service ‘to assist women and children in crisis who experience distress or family violence’ and ‘offers companionship, guidance, education and assistance to all women and dependent children’. Its ethos is Christian service to those in need. It has the support of local churches and is run by a committed team.
The website for the WA Mums Cottage is https://wamumscottage.org.au/