Lucy Kurien was born in 1956 in the small village of Kolayad in the Kannur district of northern Kerala. At the age of twenty she joined the Mumbai convent of the Sister of the Holy Cross of Chavanod. The Sister of the Holy Cross congregation instilled in her the teachings of Jesus and his love for the poor; however Sr Lucy felt that the life in the convent did not allow her to serve the poor effectively. In 1989 Sr Lucy joined Sr Noelline Pinto who was running a project called HOPE (Human Organisation for Pioneering in Education) where she was able to start working for the poor.
In 1991 a pregnant woman came to HOPE asking for help and shelter as her abusive husband was threatening to kill her. Sr Lucy listened to the distraught woman but was not able to offer shelter as her superior was away until the following morning. She told the woman to come back the next day, but that night her husband dowsed her in kerosene and set fire to her. The woman and her unborn child both died due to the severity of their burns. This incident greatly affected Sr Lucy and she felt remorse and guilt that she had not been able to help the woman. The incident convinced her that she needed to work for the cause of women and she spoke to many people about this. She talked to Fr Francis D’Sa, a Jesuit priest, and he encouraged her to go ahead with this idea. He identified donors to help Sr Lucy realise her dream and raise the funds to establish Maher.
Sr Lucy founded Maher, a non government organisation in Pune, India in 1997. Maher means ‘mother’s home’ in Marathi and its primary aim is to provide shelter for destitute women and children. From a small single home in Vadhu Budruk, on the outskirts of Pune, catering for a handful of women and children, there are now 39 centres housing more than 850 children and 500 women. In addition, a home for destitute men was established in 2014.
As well as providing a safe haven Maher also provides counselling, ensures the children are educated, runs over 500 self-help groups and improves understanding of social issues, eg abuse of the girl child, by performing street plays in the villages. Maher accepts all faiths and castes and treats them all equally. Maher celebrated 20 years of social commitment and service on 5 February, 2017 and the Chief Guest at this event was Honorable Shrimati Pratibhatai Patil, former President of India.
Sr Lucy and Maher have received many awards for their work including the ‘Nari Shakti Award’ from the President of India, Woman of the Year and Mother Teresa award.
Sr Lucy will be talking about her work on Wednesday, 10 May at Tapton Hill Congregational Church, Tapton Hill Road, Sheffield, S10 5GA. The meeting begins at 7.30pm with a curry followed by Sr Lucy’s talk and a question and answer session. Tickets are £5 and can be bought in advance from the vicar, Rev Suzanne Nockels, tel: 0114 2325790.
On Thursday, 11 May Sr Lucy will talk at the McAuley Centre, behind St Patrick’s Church, Barnsley Road, Sheffield, S5 0QF. This meeting will start at 7pm followed by tea, coffee and biscuits. No tickets are required for this event.
Maher crafts (made by women at the refuge) will be on sale each evening.