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A legacy of learning

Rt Revd Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel and Ossory travelled to India with Deborah Doherty to open the Elizabeth Ferrar Education Centre in Hyderabad.

Following her death in 2001, Christian Aid received a generous legacy from Miss Ferrar's estate, via Bishops’ Appeal.


Thanks entirely to the generous legacy of Miss Elizabeth Ferrar, Christian Aid’s partner COVA (Confederation of Voluntary Agencies) now has a new and purpose built education centre which will also be a permanent memorial in her adopted country to her character and commitment. 

I was very honoured to be invited to represent the bishops of the Church of Ireland at the opening of the building.

 

Visiting Christian Aid projects

During our visit to India we did not just celebrate the role of the Ferrar Centre; we also visited Christian Aid projects which in the spirit of Elizabeth herself emphasise that the empowerment of women and the provision of educational opportunities for girls is so often the way to break a cycle of poverty and exploitation.

To meet a group of Dalit women who had survived, indeed triumphed, over the most appalling sexual exploitation and violation and to hear their stories was powerfully and in fact indescribably moving.

In Delhi, we witnessed how Christian Aid and its partners work in the slums, with families who have migrated into the city and who live without sanitation in the flimsiest of shacks amid the mud of the monsoon, try to earn a little money by selling what they scavenge by hand from nearby rubbish tips. Very small children join their parents in this work.

Christian Aid works with partners to provide little schools in tin huts known as Bridge schools, and parents come to realise that if their children receive a basic education there, they may manage to bridge a gap of knowledge that otherwise inhibits them from accessing the state run schools.

To see the capacity and commitment of teachers working in these conditions was mind boggling.

 

My brief visit to India opened my eyes to a vast country full of contrasts.

It is the land of the Taj Mahal, the world's largest functioning democracy, yet the struggle to make equality of opportunity a reality for its people involves climbing a monumental mountain, and in that climb Christian Aid, now working in India as Change Alliance under the remarkable leadership of Dr Belinda Bennett, are truly making a difference.

Education lies at the heart of all social progress and it is surely right that the name of a great Irish Christian educationalist, Elizabeth Ferrar, will now be ever honoured in the land she loved and indeed called home.


(An abridged version of an article which appeared in the Church of Ireland Gazette, Friday 30 September 2016).

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