Year of Sisters:
In India, Keeping Vulnerable Girls Safe

Name: Sister Lilly Chirayath C.H.F.
Order: Holy Family Congregation
Facility: Holy Family Asha Niwas
Location: New Delhi, India

In India’s poorest urban districts, homeless girls often wander the streets. They’re unwanted and vulnerably alone. It’s a grim reality that Sister Lilly Chirayath, her fellow sisters, and their staff are working to change at Holy Family Asha Niwas — or “House of Hope.”

Together, they run the orphanage and a second center in New Delhi, now celebrating its 100th year of helping the poor. “Our main mission is taking care of our orphanage,” Sister Lilly explains. “It’s where we help neglected and unwanted street girls 4 to 18 years of age.”

More than 25,000 families live in the slums of southwest New Delhi, where even menial work is hard to find. Many people turn to petty crime or worse. And for the homeless girls the sisters have taken in, the orphanage has been a place that has literally saved their lives.

“These girls had been wandering around railway stations, markets and streets,” Sister Lilly points out. “Some lost their parents or are abandoned. Others have been ill-treated by their drunken fathers. They were exploited by antisocial elements. Many are undernourished, both mentally and physically.”

The sisters help them in many ways — from providing shelter, food and clothing to ensuring each girl receives an education. As Sister Lilly says, “We believe they should have vocational training, health care, counseling and guidance.”

One of Sister Lilly’s favorites, a girl name Shilpa, “lost her parents when she was small. She was living with relatives, who told her to work in the kitchen. She was working very hard, but they treated her very badly and she ran away.”

The police found 12 year-old Shilpa in a railway station, and she was brought to Holy Family Asha Niwas. As Sister Lilly says, “She wanted to study and become something. The sisters arranged tutors and she was very brilliant in her studies. She did her B.A., her Masters in Social Work, and got married. At present, she is living happily with her child and family.”

Many girls who come to Holy Family Asha Niwas later work there as adults. But qualified staff and funding are in short supply. “We want to help the girls grow as good citizens and also in their future jobs and marriages,” Sister Lilly explains, aware that her compassion can only take them so far. “If we can find enough funds, we can give better quality service for our children. We want to help them realize their dreams.”

Thousands of sisters. Millions of small miracles.

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