Reports

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Overview by Saskia Raevouri (click on images for PDF reports)
Since 2006, Sue Tennant, Dr. John Lange, Geri Johnson and I have made regular visits to the FreeSchools in Bihar, India, founded and managed by Sr. Mary Crescence of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Bettiah. In this section are several travelogues of our experiences, which I hope will inspire you to contribute to the ongoing work.
History
Around 1998 humanitarian Mark Bloomfield (who had worked with Mother Teresa) supported Sr. Crescence in the formation of the first non-formal school, in Motihari, for the lower-caste village children who would otherwise never learn to read and write. What started as one school, held in the convent classroom after school hours, funded privately by Mark and his family in England, later joined by Robert Coenraads and family in Australia, had grown by 2006 to 20 schools in four Bihar towns, funded chiefly by Sue Tennant's Canadian charity, FreeSchools World Literacy.
Further Fundraising
In 2007 I reported on our 2006 visit and, from a group of generous friends, I raised over $20,000 in partnership with Mind, Body, and Spirit, Inc. This amount, together with other funds collected via the FreeSchools website, Sue and I personally handed over to Sr. Crescence in November 2007.
Broader Picture
In 2007 we were also shown a broader picture of the work being done by the Sisters in Bihar, the walled convents being havens of civilization surrounded by disorder and backwardness, with the nuns reaching out to teach, train, heal, educate, and improve the lot of the crude, illiterate, uncultured villagers, still struggling in makeshift shelters without sanitation or electricity, still contracting polio, virtually unprotected against devastating monsoons, and with few opportunities for advancement. The motive of the Sisters is to not to convert these masses—mostly Hindus and Muslims—to Catholicism, but to raise their standard of living up a few notches.
Convent Dormitories
In keeping with this concept, Sr. Crescence told us of her dream to renovate an existing structure on the convent grounds, to annually take in 18 of the brightest girls from non-formal schools and educate them within the convent walls. These girls would then return to their village in a better position to help it progress. They would also form bonds with each other, leading to high-level interaction between villages. After giving Sr. Crescence funds to get started on the building project, we later raised another $10,000 to complete it. Renamed the Bridge Course Program for Poorest Girls, the grand opening ceremony took place in March 2010, attended by Geri, Dr. John and myself.
Bridge Course Scholarships
Full board and tuition (including books and uniforms) for the 16 girls boarding at the convent for the 2010-2011 season, along with start-up costs for furnishings,was calculated at $7,500. This amount (plus $1,180.00 excess towards 2011-2012) was collected and personally delivered to Sr. Crescence in two stages by Sue and Geri during subsequent visits.
Tricycle Wheelchairs
The only way for some of these handicapped children and young people to get around is by tricycle wheelchair, built in India especially to travel bad Indian roads. At $125 apiece, can a set of legs come any cheaper? We raised a total of $1,500 which was delivered to Sr. Ambrose who sent us photos of the kids with their new "vehicles."
Disabled Girls Project
In the summer of 2010 Sr. Ambrose of the Sugauli convent requested funds for six disabled girls to board at the convent, along with a tailoring teacher and cook. Total for one year came to $1,620 ($20 per month per girl) plus cook's salary of $265. A total of INR94,000 (circa $1,800 at the time) was raised and transferred into the convent's bank account.
Medical Camps for Children
During both our 2007 and 2010 visits, Sr. Crescence organized a Medical Camp for Children. The first one, at the Sugauli convent for disabled children, American urologist Dr. John Lange examined close to 300 scruffy little patients in one morning! The main purpose of this somewhat superficial medical exam was to encourage the superstitious villagers to come out and be helped.

2006: A Life Changing Experience by Saskia Raevouri
2007: Tricycle Wheelchairs
2010: The Girls' Dormitory
2010: Harivatika School
2011: Disabled Girls Report
2011: Bridge Course Xmas
2012-13 Bridge Course Report
2015: FreeSchools World Literacy
2007: Journey to Bihar
2009: Report from Bihar
2010: Bihar Revisited
2010: Bayria School Report
2010-11 Bridge Course Report
2012: There and Back Again
2012: Four Days in Bihar
2015-2016 Bridge Course Report

Overview by Saskia Raevouri (click on images for PDF reports)
Since 2006, Sue Tennant, Dr. John Lange, Geri Johnson and I have made regular visits to the FreeSchools in Bihar, India, founded and managed by Sr. Mary Crescence of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Bettiah. In this section are several travelogues of our experiences, which I hope will inspire you to contribute to the ongoing work.
History
Around 1998 humanitarian Mark Bloomfield (who had worked with Mother Teresa) supported Sr. Crescence in the formation of the first non-formal school, in Motihari, for the lower-caste village children who would otherwise never learn to read and write. What started as one school, held in the convent classroom after school hours, funded privately by Mark and his family in England, later joined by Robert Coenraads and family in Australia, had grown by 2006 to 20 schools in four Bihar towns, funded chiefly by Sue Tennant's Canadian charity, FreeSchools World Literacy.
Further Fundraising
In 2007 I reported on our 2006 visit and, from a group of generous friends, I raised over $20,000 in partnership with Mind, Body, and Spirit, Inc. This amount, together with other funds collected via the FreeSchools website, Sue and I personally handed over to Sr. Crescence in November 2007.
Broader Picture
In 2007 we were also shown a broader picture of the work being done by the Sisters in Bihar, the walled convents being havens of civilization surrounded by disorder and backwardness, with the nuns reaching out to teach, train, heal, educate, and improve the lot of the crude, illiterate, uncultured villagers, still struggling in makeshift shelters without sanitation or electricity, still contracting polio, virtually unprotected against devastating monsoons, and with few opportunities for advancement. The motive of the Sisters is to not to convert these masses—mostly Hindus and Muslims—to Catholicism, but to raise their standard of living up a few notches.
Convent Dormitories
In keeping with this concept, Sr. Crescence told us of her dream to renovate an existing structure on the convent grounds, to annually take in 18 of the brightest girls from non-formal schools and educate them within the convent walls. These girls would then return to their village in a better position to help it progress. They would also form bonds with each other, leading to high-level interaction between villages. After giving Sr. Crescence funds to get started on the building project, we later raised another $10,000 to complete it. Renamed the Bridge Course Program for Poorest Girls, the grand opening ceremony took place in March 2010, attended by Geri, Dr. John and myself.
Bridge Course Scholarships
Full board and tuition (including books and uniforms) for the 16 girls boarding at the convent for the 2010-2011 season, along with start-up costs for furnishings,was calculated at $7,500. This amount (plus $1,180.00 excess towards 2011-2012) was collected and personally delivered to Sr. Crescence in two stages by Sue and Geri during subsequent visits.
Tricycle Wheelchairs
The only way for some of these handicapped children and young people to get around is by tricycle wheelchair, built in India especially to travel bad Indian roads. At $125 apiece, can a set of legs come any cheaper? We raised a total of $1,500 which was delivered to Sr. Ambrose who sent us photos of the kids with their new "vehicles."
Disabled Girls Project
In the summer of 2010 Sr. Ambrose of the Sugauli convent requested funds for six disabled girls to board at the convent, along with a tailoring teacher and cook. Total for one year came to $1,620 ($20 per month per girl) plus cook's salary of $265. A total of INR94,000 (circa $1,800 at the time) was raised and transferred into the convent's bank account.
Medical Camps for Children
During both our 2007 and 2010 visits, Sr. Crescence organized a Medical Camp for Children. The first one, at the Sugauli convent for disabled children, American urologist Dr. John Lange examined close to 300 scruffy little patients in one morning! The main purpose of this somewhat superficial medical exam was to encourage the superstitious villagers to come out and be helped.