Shopping Lists for the Clunys.rev docx

Divi Seema Foundation is committed to supporting two communities of Cluny sisters for the next two years for their various activities in the social development, education and medical fields at a cost of approx £4,000 p.a at Nagayalanka and £2,000 at Kottur. Both communities need extra funds to maintain and expand their vital work. Most of their funds come from their Province, some from private donors like us, sometimes, but it is pretty sporadic. Our contribution will provide some degree of continuity so they can plan ahead with confidence. When we were in Nagayalanka and Kottur this time (August 2015) we asked the superiors what extras they needed. Here are their lists.

Shopping Lists for the Clunys

in order of their priorities

NAGAYALANKA – potential outreach 20,000 people

with some of Sr Superior Jessy’s notes in italics





Cost in £ sterling

Jeep: The current one is costing too much in replacement and running costs and is frequently off the road.   They can get £3,000 for it. They need one to have medical camps in the remoter villages and for emergencies and general running around, collecting stores and so on  



Borewell: located on Cluny land off the main road and piped to a ¾ acre patch of land behind the main block. When irrigated the land can produce enough vegetables to feed the 100 children in the Cluny hostel on the campus.  


Doctor with a specialty (surgical) will ask for 1-1.5 lakhs per month (£1,000 – £1,500) to come to such a remote place. A doctor can conduct deliveries and see emergency cases requiring referrals. The sisters can deal with the other emergencies such as snake bite, scorpion bite, fever, diarrhea, asthma etc. “But any thing go wrong first question the people ask is where the doctor is……..Though the people are poor and simple there are people to instigate problems and they (the doctors) demand lakhs and lakhs that we are not able to afford”.  


12 – 18,000 p.a

Tailoring Centre; two are planned – one in the town of Nagayalanka itself (which will need renovating – toilets etc) and the other on the Cluny campus adjacent to the CARD building which will also require renovating; the cost for each centre is around £1,000. Both centres will need to be equipped with 5 sewing machines and tables and stools each place costing £60 per machine  


Birthing table to replace old one in their hospital  


10 new beds in the Hostel



KOTTUR– potential outreach 5,000 people

with some of Sr Superior Elseena’s notes in italics




Cost in £ sterling



Scooter: we need scooter to go round places. Jeep is costly to run. We go only to mountains in jeep – deisel is costly. Scooter we go to other villages around here (Kottur) for savings groups and youth meetings.   We can walk but in rainy season scooter is better.





Tailoring Centre. The Clunys already have one tailoring centre in part of a building that houses the dispensary. It is over crowded with 9 machines and 20 students. There is a large room over the dispensary with the capacity to take up to 10 machines and another 20 students. We only have one teacher – a good teacher is difficult to find – she can take both classes but we only need 5 machines. The new centre will need to be equipped with 5 sewing machines each and tables and stools, each place costing £60






PW 9th September 2015


Field Trip August 2015


We have previously made two films about Divi Seema (both on this website) .…….. The first showed how a community of nuns helps poor people improve their lives and how we (Divi Seema Foundation) are involved. ……………The second showed the everyday lives of these people and hinted at some of the underlying difficulties of living in Divi ………With this third one we wanted to go deeper over the threshold, into the houses of remote villages and hear how the women cope with their everyday difficulties, in their own words, and, what future they hope for, for themselves and their families.

Divi Seema is an island created by the Krishna Delta

Divi Seema is an island created by the Krishna Delta

Our procedure was  to ask two questions in an “interview”:

  • What has improved in your lives in the last few years?, and,
  • What still needs to be improved?
A typical village in Divi Seema - a mixture of mainly traditional houses of mud brick, bamboo and palm leaves and a few Gov't concrete houses.

A typical village in Divi Seema – a mixture of mainly traditional houses of mud brick, bamboo and palm leaves and a few Gov’t concrete houses.

The film we are going to make is based on these interviews…. Over the period of the interviews old difficulties reared their ugly heads, such as access to health care, education and water. But we were also able to uncover other subjects, like local government failure and corruption, half hearted Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), forced marriages and AIDS. This piece sets out how we went about the process.

Day One

My daughter Nancy the camera woman, Ram the DSF manager and I arrive at Machilipatnam by night train for Secunderabad, then to Nagayalanka for breakfast after which  we go to the village of Dintimeraka to see how Sharada’s little nursery school is getting on; still no shelves or cupboards but Sharada oversees the ten very deprived children who attend.

Sharada and Ram outside the nursery school

Sharada and Ram outside the nursery school

The nursery is still in the same unfinished state as it was a year ago. She wont take any more money from us because it arouses the hostility of the other villagers. “Why does a foreigner give you  money and not us?“. Sadly, this spotlights one of the most pervasive undercurrents in this society – jealousy. We leave the situation as it is.


Sharada”s nursery schoolchildren at Dintimeraka

We get to know Sr Celine who is Director of the the Cluny Andhra Rural Development programme (CARD). We explain what we want to do. Ram returns to Hyderabad by night train.

Day Two – morning

Nancy and I go by auto scooter with our faithful and trustworthy auto scooter driver Ragi (the same one as for the other two films)  to the first village accompanied by Celine on the Cluny scooter.

Our plan to is give a small camera to a woman and ask her to take photos on her own of what she thinks best answers our two questions….. We will then print them out and film her telling us why she had taken their photographs and what issues they represented. Celine explains that we want her to photograph things that answer our questions and we discuss some of the problems facing her before she goes off to photograph.

It becomes apparent during the discussion that the woman was aiming her answers to what she thought I would like  to hear …. So from now on Nancy goes out without me either with Celine or a non-sister interpreter and takes the interview.

Day Two – afternoon

Nancy and Celine go back with the prints and interview the woman again …. She is a savings group leader and deeply concerned about two perennial problems in her  village – water supply and roads. Sometimes there is no water in the wells, sometimes there is but access can be barred. …… She was very strong on roads and for good reason ….…. In the rainy season the roads are like farm tracks and the remoter villages are cut off and inaccessible except by foot ….the nearest market town is 10 miles away ..

A typical side road in any village

A typical side road in any village

They line up tomorrow’s interviewee (no 2) and give her a camera.

Day Three – 

The interviews revealed  that her initial answers to the questions leading up to taking the photographs were more interesting than what she said at the “interview”. So we change tack; from now on we film women’s immediate responses to the questions and then ask them to take the photos.

This woman’s whose main concern is the need for a nursery school in the village…..She  talks about the danger of snakes. Nagayalanka in Telegu means the “Place of the snake”, and half the cases dealt by the sisters in their dispensary are from snake bite, mainly women working in the fields who have to leave their babies somewhere.  They hang them up in a sari in the trees while they work in the fields…….So nursery schools as crèches are very important……

A photo by the interviewee of a typical problem - keeping the snakes at bay

Keeping a baby away from snakes:

She is also concerned about the lack of a safe water supply. There is lot of typhoid around caused by polluted drinking water.

Day four – morning  

Sr Grace comes back from Chennai for a short visit and first thing convenes a meeting with her old savings groups leaders. Grace was transferred in May so she is keen to see how they have got on …..

Sr Grace with a meeting of leaders of womens savings groupss

Sr Grace with a meeting of leaders of womens savings groupss

Celine also attends and then she and Grace spend most of the day swapping information before Celine goes off to Warangal.


Nancy and I go with Grace go to a  village where she started a tailoring centre about six months ago, with DSF funding. Its a good system – the women pay the teacher, we supply the machines. Two batches have been trained – thats about 30 women, half of them unmarried girls. This skill is a vital asset for women with families who save money by making their own clothes; for the unmarried ones the skill increases their “bride price” and when they go to another village on their marriage they can make a bit of pin money and new friends.

Graduates of Barankala Tailoring Centre

Graduates of Barankala Tailoring Centre

Day Five

Church service in the morning.  Nancy and I later go down to the Nagayalanka and its waterfront to capture some shots.

Sunday morning service at Nagayalanka

Sunday morning service at Nagayalanka

Jessy (the Superior) and I have a chat – the shopping list: what else do you need here apart from our committed funds. How can we help? .….. In the afternoon Nancy and I go round the “countryside” in our always available auto-scooter to capture “wild sound”.

Day Six

This a poor village and this woman has to go a mile or two to get safe drinking water

This a a poor village and this woman has to go a mile or two to get safe drinking water.

The woman talked about the same problem as the previous interviewees ..…..water supply  ……..and how crucial it was to have an assured supply of safe water; definitely a failure on the government’s part – lack of funds – indifference – incompetence? – any or all of these – What makes it worse is that she lives in a very remote village, so why should the government bother?

Day Seven 

Nancy and I and Jessy (a medical sister) and the other medical sister Amala, go to Nali in a jeep piled high with medicines and equipment. Nali is a fishing village about 20 km from Nagayalanka and 5 km from the coast and is one of the six villages where the sisters hold a fortnightly “medical camp” and reach about 100 – 200 people per village.

Nancy and Jessy in Nali

Nancy and Sr Jessy in Nali

The sisters dispense mainly pain killers and medicines, measure blood pressure and look out for symptoms of typhoid (prevalent), malaria, anaemia and tell-tale signs of malnutrition and other debilitating diseases………….but that’s all.  They try and persuade the people to eat better.  Many of them have thyroid problems, a  consequence of not eating vegetables, but the message doesn’t seem to  get through .

Jessy attending in the medical camp

Sr Jessy attending in the medical camp

A major problem is that it is extremely difficult to get any (good or not) government doctors to come to the rural areas.  Another problem is that the sisters’ dispensaries are not permitted by law to carry out many procedures, many of which the sisters are perfectly competent to do, without a doctor in attendance, and  people wont go to places without a doctor. The women buy medicines from the sisters way below the shop prices. The pharmaceutical companies give the cheapest medicines to the sisters but not the more expensive ones and antibiotics, so they have to buy them over the counter and we  subsidise those.

Day Eight 

The next woman woman’s family had been hit by AIDS. Her daughter married a man with AIDS. They both died.  There is a lot of AIDS around despite government denials; treatment is prohibitively expensive and can cost a family’s entire income for 6 months or more, as will even minor surgery, and put families into debt for years, so hospitalisation is definitely a last resort. There is no NHS out here.

Day Nine

Another perennial problem for the poorest families is old age and what to do with old people. Some families just abandon them because they can’t afford to look after them; others keep them but treat them badly. No care homes here. Possibly a distant relative? Perhaps not!

Digital Camera

Once a daughter leaves her home on her marriage the decision to look after her mother rests with her mother in law who may well decree that the welfare of the girls mother is not her concern..  The mother is ignored.

Day Ten 

Another issue is the sporadic government house building programme and its endemic failure to follow up virtually on anything; plenty of promises, particularly at election time but no monitoring ….. the curse of local government …….. disinterest ….. indifference

A traditional one pole house - the cheapest. Photo taken by the owner

A house finished by the owner; a traditional one pole house.  Photo by  by the owner

Day Eleven

Celine has called a day long meeting with the 300 savings groups leaders to the CARD headquarters on the Nagayalanka campus.   Its much easier and less consuming for Celine if the women come o the Nagayalanka campus.  She has been warned off having womens’ meetings in some villages because the national government has made it clear that since this is a Hindu country minority religious groups like the Catholics are infringing the Hindu way of life and their activities should therefore be restricted.

Day Twelve 

We came across the classic but now familiar story ……….a oorly educated but intelligent woman, the wage earner in the family, a sick husband, perennial debt, another broken promise – financial help for the house…….. a perpetual struggle. But this woman is enterprising; she went to the best training NGO  at her own expense to improve her life chances and her community some good, but other things prevailed and she can now only help herself by making fish traps from  home.

Day Thirteen

This was the last interview and we got it all.  The  woman below talked about the charade of the political system and how at voting time the politicians come to the villages and make lavish promises.  They bribe the men with alcohol and give the women a little money. After that they disappear for the next five 5 years. In between times requests for safe water, toilets or even pension payments are ignored. Apparently even when people die an official wont be bothered to come to a village and ascertain the cause of death.

A brave strong woman fighting against the odds but seemingly cheerful and surviving. h

A brave strong woman fighting against the odds but seemingly cheerful and surviving.

According to her the men drink most of their wages and are unconcerned with improvements to their village such as why the village is not developing, why roads are not laid, why people don’t get their pensions and why the  available a drinking water is so unsafe that even the old people and small children have to go miles to get it.  One of the reasons that is so is because in her village the water is located in an upper caste part of the village.  The caste system (the traditional division of the population according to employment going back  over 2000 years ) with its rigid demarcations of rights determines most things in India and particularly in the rural areas.  In this case it determines who has access to water when there is shortage creating huge tensions between the upper castes and the Scheduled castes (ex Harijan – untouchables) and Backward castes (Tribals – in effect aboriginals).  Here the upper caste prevents the other castes from getting to the wells located in or near their part of the village.

So what have we got from the women that I or the sisters didn’t know already?

Probably a better understanding of the depth of anger and despair of the village women at local government, and in some cases NGOs, all of whom ( Government and NGOs) flit in, leave something behind like a half finished school, or housing colony, or a village hall, then flit out again, ticking their lists as they go. The women we met are  resigned to their situations and cope, but, given the chance to join up with the sisters they do and quite a lot become Christians, say about 50 percent. For those who might be critical of Hindu women embracing Christianity let me ask you one question……….. If you were on a life raft would you care what the name on the side was?

The sisters put us on the overnight train at Vijayawada to Srikakulam; hugs and kisses all round and something to eat on the train……….. Now to the very north of the state, to another Cluny community, in Kottur…. .

Day Fourteen 

We arrive at Srikakulam at 6.30am and are met by the new superior Sr Elseena and Sr Christina, now transferred elsewhere. We arrive at the convent for breakfast. After a short (commanded) rest we get into the business of seeing what has happened since I was last here in January 2014.

First thing, the Tailoring Centre which has had about 100 women and girls through it since then. There is a full-time teacher (9 months) but Christina is a state medal winner in stitching so the work they produce is of very high standard.

The class of summer 2015

The class of Summer 2015

Then we go into the slums of Kottur to meet several savings groups started by Christina in 2013. The members have accrued enough capital to apportion loans and have significantly improved their lives. From the 15 women we questioned who had taken loans a third had used them for crucial “rites of passage” ceremonies, a third on education, and the rest on animals.

A fairly typical side street in Kottur

A typical side street in Kottur

Kottur is very poor indeed. It is an urban area in a rural backwater, so if there is no work in the countryside there is no work in the town. But people try and make a go of something.

Day Fifteen

Up into the mountains – the eastern Ghats – to the villages where Tribals live and where the Clunys have two medical camps a week.

The land is very fertile and intensively cultivated.  Every type of tropical fruit grows here and and there are two crops of rice a year.  The tribals own the land by Government decree and they should be rich, but they are not…Why? Because they are uneducated and have no other skills such as managing and marketing their produce ,so the middle men of Kottur snap up everything they grow and sell it at a mark ups of anything from 10 – 20 times.

Filming in the rain

Filming in the Easter Ghats; Sr Christina, Sr Eleesena and Nancy

The Protestants brought Christianity to the tribals about 20 years ago; they built huge churches in every village where the vicar holds a service every week in turn ( 15 villages).  The government built some houses and brought electricity. Only the Clunys do the looking-after bit – with their medical camps and taking the children in to their hostel at Kottur to ensure they get some schooling.

In the evening we attend a Childrens’ Parliament (one was featured in the first film).  The topic this evening is  how the members (children from 5 – 14) can help old people, and, how they should tackle the filth along the main roads and organise another  “Clean up Kottur” day.

Day 16

Last day; Meeting with the sisters – shopping list: what else do you need here apart from our committed funds. How can we help? ……Catch up on shots of down town Kottur (the bus stand is the centre of this universe) and various other things such as:  rain, puddles, schoolchildren and so on. Three sisters take us to Srikakulam to catch the overnight train to Secunderabad…… . Hugs and kisses all round, again, and something to eat on the train..

 The Secunderabad Club……… Translating session all day with Ram and Nancy …. Ram’s house for tea ……. early start ……..  silver tubes ……. At Dubai Nancy goes to Paris and I go on home…… seamless.

Day Seventeen

Cab to Vijayawada with Leonie and Grace who were determined to put me onto the train safely.

Any conclusions from my trip?  Yes – quite a few and  bit more focused this time!

The poorest end of the economic scale, in Divi and other rural areas, face a conflagration of negative forces, over which (like a lot of us) they are powerless to act, apart from keeping their heads down.  These are briefly:

  • Over population
  • Insufficient health care
  • Insufficient relevant education
  • Over stretched resources that are mismanaged chronically badly with no reliable structure that guarantees their proper accountability, monitoring, and maintenance, and an administration that is inherently corrupt.
  • Increasing mechanisation that will reduce work opportunities for unskilled and ill educated agricultural labourers
  • Possible sea level rise (the highest point in Divi is 5m above sea level).

The most likely outcome of these events is migration to the cities – people will leave Divi and other rural areas in increasing numbers for larger towns and cities which will stretch already over stretched resources in those places.

So, any solutions ?


Education and training; either to get out or stay with better job prospects and in this respect  Children’s Parliaments are a very promising possibility for kids to get out of this morass


Day Sixteen

Day 16. Morning. Farewells to my chums at the Potumeda teashop.

Evening to a very poor and remote village Barankala that seems to have been ignored forever.

A savings group meeting run by Graces’ two co-ordinators (see Video Blog, forthcoming).  She needs two more for her programme.  The savings groups are the second and crucial “degree of freedom” for these people; the first step if possible, is making children aware of what they can do within there limited circumstances, primary school level.  i.e. through Children’s Parliaments.

Late evening, a show put on by the girls (ages 5 -14) in the Cluny hostel  to celebrate the birthday of Anne Marie Javouhey  the founder of the Cluny order ( 1807).  The girls all come from remote villages on Divi (island) or islands in the river Krishna and attend the government school nearby. The performance consisted mainly of singing and vigorous, sinewy and captivating Bollywood dancing, better than Bollywood[. Many of these girls are bright, eager, and living in the moment. When they leave the Cluny hostel possibly ten percent might go on to College until they are 16 but the rest will return to their villages, get married (at 14 onwards) and live empty blank lives as chattels, slaves and breeders. Their education with the sisters may have been wasted. Who knows?

Day Fifteen

Day 15. Morning. First thing after breakfast. . Father Johan blesses the Monitor Its been standing idle for a week now until he was available. I inaugurated it, he was the first patient. Now it’s in action!!

Then road to Georgepeta out on the Coastal Flat; shooting more fields and roads; a peaceful landscape at ease with itself, and tranquil. Sr Christina came from Kotturu.  We spent the afternoon discussing what she had done in Kotturu and how much money she wanted for her existing and new projects.  Kotturu IS a very poor place and doing what the Clunys do must be like pushing water uphill.

With Grace to Chinta Chodavarem for another Children’s Parliament (movie) combined with a savings group meeting.


The parents were spectators (for a bit) at the Children’s Parliament. Grace has again brought plastic footballs, skipping ropes and rubber quoits.

The underlying concept of Children’s Parliaments is to make young children aware of the problems in their own villages (possibly society) and learn how they can improve their situations by group action.


  • Solidarity and confidence building
  • Learning how to work together (as a group of non family members)
  • Seeing the results of working together
  • Solidarity and confidence building

Social cohesion is a “hope” for the future – confidence in themselves – and a way to learn the value of co-operation

Day Fourteen

Church service again,  another superb show by the priest. the congregation is a mixed bag, women ranging from matrons to young girls and a sprinkling of men. This time the priest acknowledges my presence. “Earlier this year you did not step inside, this time you have”.


Nothing much doing here.  Grace is away in Vijayawada so Ravi and I potter around the roads looking for subjects There are plenty of them but I focus (again) on the fields and the roads. I don’t like walking around the villages on my own, even with Ravi as my filter.  It’s not my place and I feel they think I’m looking at them like animals in a zoo and I sense they don’t like that.  I wouldn’t.

Day Thirteen

Morning to the river at Nagayalanka. Take  fishing boats coming in from down river with their catches from the coast to be dried here for exporting, worldwide. Boys are playing on the mud beach and swimming; the men repairing their boats and looking serious. Other boats coming across the river with Labourers? People with goods?  What?

Evening. Kotaripalem again with Grace for another Children’s Parliament. This time they are electing the ministers, after which they play with toys that Grace has bought (via DSF):  plastic footballs, skipping ropes and rubber quoits. These children don’t have toys!! So it’s quite an event.