Sisters, student discuss India and ASCs during Mission Talk

Students at Aradhana Academy in Bengaluru, India.

The fourth Newman University Mission Talk of the 2015-16 academic year concerned "India and ASC Ministry to the Disadvantaged."

Professor of Business Vicki Bergkamp, ASC, one of several speakers who have travelled to India, said, "India is so vast, and its culture is so vast, that what we can do today in this time is very limited." She wanted to make the point, though, that, "There is nothing that we can assume about our society that automatically applies to them."

Tarcisia Roths, ASC, former Newman University President, said her visits to India and other countries have given her insights into other peoples and cultures.

"So our aim as a university to give our students that global perspective is very dear to me," she said.

Student Diana Stanley, who recently returned from a study abroad with the Bengaluru Chapter of ASCs in India, got the "global perspective" offered by Newman University through a teaching internship at Aradhana Academy, a K-12 school operated by the ASCs.

Stanley lived in Karnataka, a state in southwest India, with student Brandi Boese for seven weeks during her study abroad and went by the name "Whisky" since hers was too difficult for some in India to say. She started her presentation with the questions she's been asked since returning from India.

Yes, she's tried curry.

Yes, she's seen temples.

No, she did not get to ride an elephant.

One woman's comment, though, threw her.

"She said 'I'm so glad you got through that safely,'" Stanley said. "I realized that this woman, this well-meaning woman, viewed all of India like those Holy Childhood Association commercials where if you donate $5, you can make a difference in a child's life."

Stanley admitted that her example was extreme, but she said it did highlight some cliches often associated with the country, such as that it is poor, dirty and unsafe.

When Stanley spoke to the ASC sisters she stayed with, they described India differently than some of the people she's spoken to since her return. They describe India as growing, tech-savvy and beautiful, and as having wonderful food and being filled with wonderful, diverse people.

However, Stanley did not shy away from the issues India does face, including racism between different castes, extreme economic disparities between the very wealthy and the very poor, poor education and unsafe schools -- especially for young women and girls -- and religious and nationalistic tensions.

So what are the ASCs doing in India?

The Bengaluru Chapter of the ASCs in India, a community of eight women, acts mostly as a teaching order -- much like the sisters who founded Sacred Heart Junior College, now Newman University.

Stanley worked with the sisters at Aradhana Academy in Bengaluru, teaching music, science, communication and English classes. Aradhana, one of three schools managed by the ASCs in India, is also one of the few schools that accept children with special needs.

"There was one child... essentially he couldn't walk... and he had been told that if he hadn't found [Aradhana Academy] by seventh grade, he wouldn't be able to go to school anymore," Stanley said.

The ASCs also use food as an incentive to encourage impoverished children living around their convent to participate in tutoring and classes. Approximately 200 children attend every couple of days.

Adult education is important, too, and the focus is often on sewing and fashion so students can get higher paid factory jobs or start their own businesses as tailors. English classes are also provided to adult students who leave government schools without enough English language skills to obtain a job in India.

The ASCs also work in the jails, with the elderly, with young women and girls and in hospitals as nurses.

Stanley said upon her return to the United States, "It's the people I met that really made the experience for me. The sisters were an amazing group of women who do so much for the community. I am going to miss them."

Director of Development for Sciences and Health Sciences Therese Wetta, who has been in India, said the ASCs are working in the northeast part of India, with "the untouchables," a group of people without caste who work in agriculture for themselves or who clean the streets and the chamber pots of the wealthier classes.

"When the sisters went to this part of India, it was a deliberate choice," she said.

The ASCs built a house for the sisters to live in and a school to educate a group of people who had never before received education. Plans to develop a dispensary and a social work program are also in progress.

"This is a tremendous new work that our sisters are doing there," Sister Therese said.

For students looking for a college experience that provides them with opportunities to visit, learn and teach around the world, Newman University's connection with the Adorers of the Blood of Christ is just one of the ways the university provides students with a "global perspective."

 

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