Hero of India's Untouchables Dead at 87

Sister Nancy Pereira Founded Bank for the Poor

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BANGALORE, India, JULY 20, 2010 (Zenit.org).- An untold number of families in the slums of Bangalore have left behind starvation and alcoholism, and owe their financial stability and full stomachs to Sister Nancy Pereira.

The sister of the Daughters of Maria Auxiliatrix died last Wednesday at 87, leaving a legacy of thousands of families who have found dignity within their poverty.

Nancy Pereira was born Aug. 14, 1923, in the Indian state of Kerala. She made her first profession in 1945.

A biography written by members of her community described her in this way: «[S]he was convinced that her vocation was to be with the poor and to devote herself to serving them. She loved all of them and tried to make them aware of their rights as well as their duties and to live their dignity as children of God. She did this with joy, involving many people in her projects for doing good. Forgetful of self, she lived a life of poverty to enrich the poor.»

In fact, Sister Pereira employed not only her rich spirituality but also her economic sagacity in her project of lifting Indian untouchables out of material and psychological poverty.

In the early 1990s in Bangalore she began a Fund for the Poor, offering bank loans to the destitute at accessible (negligible) interest rates. But the loans had to be earned by proof of willingness to work. To get the credit, the person had to prove that he or she had saved a small sum for a year and taken part in meetings of the small credit management group.

«With her creative solidarity she founded numerous groups for the promotion of women (Self Help Group) and development programs such as IGP (Income Generating Program) to help the poor live in worthy conditions and with financial autonomy,» her religious sisters explained.

During her life Sister Pereira received international recognition for her work, including the St. Anthony award.

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