Sumati has lived at Mahalir Aran Trust for ten years. She came to MAT when she was 7 years old as her mother struggled financially to bring up four children after her father died.
She has younger and elder sisters and a younger brother. Sumati used to return home during the summer holidays to her village to spend time her family. This year she learned that her mother had arranged for her elder sister’s marriage and had taken on a loan at an interest rate that would take years to repay. Sumati’s uncle, now living with the family, proposed that Sumati should do “bonded labour” to repay the debt – for which the sum of INR 35000 (approx £400) would be paid up front in return for 5 years of Sumati working without pay.
Sumati’s mother intended to proceed with this idea and informed her on her recent visit, threatening her ambition of training to be a nurse. Distraught at the idea of being sent into this situation – which is a form of slavery and illegal, Sumati managed to run away from her village. She considered suicide, but decided that she must first go back to MAT, to the home where she had been loved and supported and talk with Mercy and her friends there.
At MAT she was offered protection, counselling, love and assurance, even when her mother came and tried to get her to leave. Sumati has now commenced her studies on a three year nursing course at a good college and enjoying it immensely. Her vision is to help others in a similar situation to hers. She plans to work in the MAT clinic when she has finished her training and for that she will definitely be paid a proper wage…
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Kumari was forced into prostitution at the age of 9 by a woman who said she would look after her. She was kept in a brothel for five years.
She tried to escape many times, but the brothel owners threw a large rock at her and broke her leg. Eventually she managed to escape and through the Women’s Police Help-line she came to Mahalir Aran Trust where she received physical, emotional and spiritual support. Kumari completed the MAT tailoring/stitching training course. Having been through so much, Kumari found learning how to be part of a productive and positive group was a huge personal benefit to her. It helped her grow in her self-confidence.
In appraisals we always ask the trainees about their hopes and ambitions. No one is forced to work at the Flowering Desert production unit. It is there as an option. Kumari decided that she really enjoys domestic work and cooking and preferred this to sewing and crafts work. She is now working as one of the paid kitchen assistants at Mahalir Aran Trust, which provides meals for 100 residents.
Kumari arrived at MAT a sad and abused teenager and for many years she was not interested in the idea of marriage. She has now changed her mind, and plans to be married when a suitable husband has been found, hopefully in the next few months. Kumari has found true peace – and restoration in her life within the community at MAT where she is loved and accepted for who she is. She had the freedom to choose! Her smile speaks for itself!
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MAT has limited capacity and resources to support boys, but in cases where single mothers have young sons, they are welcomed into the community.
There are two boys still at school and living at MAT, both of whom came from exceptionally difficult circumstances.
Kiran was orphaned at the age of 7 when his father died trying to rescue his mother who had slipped and fallen into a well while drawing water. He has become a much-loved member of the MAT family, and shows promise in drawing and design as well as in his academic studies.
Sikander came to live at MAT after his father died. His ambition is to become the local Collector (District Administrator), to bring justice and well-being to the wider community.
MAT believes that it is important to encourage a well-integrated community, which includes men as well as women. Our primary focus though is to help women and girls as that is where the need is greatest.
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One of the ways MAT benefits the local community
MAT produces a considerable amount of its own food through our farm, which keeps running costs manageable. Mercy’s husband, Vincenzo, works with a team of agricultural workers to model sustainable creation-care on our 40 acre farm. We grow rice, grains, nuts and vegetables and manage a small dairy herd and free-range poultry farm.
Through careful farm management MAT has helped develop sustainable practices, such as the use of bio-gas, vermi-culture, drip irrigation, and good water-management.
A tractor bought several years ago with a generous gift was hired to local farmers at below market rate. Since then, two of the MAT farm workers who own small plots of land have saved and purchased their own tractors which they are now hiring out to neighbouring farmers – We are glad that we were able to set the example for this good practice. We are glad to see our agricultural team improve quality of life for themselves and their families.