In January 2012, six members of First UU Church of Houston, and of the International Convocation of UU Women (ICUUW), visited the Unitarian churches and schools of northeast India, in a region called the Khasi Hills, one of the poorest regions of India. There we learned that these private, rural schools provide the only access to education for many children. Since the government provides little funding and private funding has largely run out, the Unitarian Union of North East India plays a critical role in helping the schools meet their financial needs.
Upon their return, the India group proposed to our two ministers, The Rev. Daniel O’Connell and The Rev. Adam Robinson, that we raise money to support one of the neediest schools, Tynring, for a year. With the generous support of donations from church members, we raised enough money, $2700, to do so.
In the Khasi Hills, there are thirty-six elementary schools, eight primary schools, and three secondary schools, each associated with a Unitarian church. Membership in the 42 churches in the region totals about 20,000. Hajam Kissor Singh, who became acquainted with Unitarianism while studying in England, founded the first of these churches in the 19th Century. Margaret Barr, a British Unitarian, moved to the region in 1936 and was the guiding light of the schools for almost 40 years. She not only taught students but also “made it her aim to provide teacher training for a free non-proselytizing education in rural areas of Meghalaya, as advocated by Ghandi.” The India group, whose members are Laura and Harry Nagel, Grace Amborski, Don Morgan, Rita Saylors, and Thorpe Butler, met with members of the Unitarian Universalist Education Committee of Northeast India who serve as administrators of the schools. They hope this is the beginning of a long-term partnership.
Contributors to this article:
First UU Church of Houston