Learn About Maher

The Howley Foundation is working with Maher exclusively to provide shelter and care to women and children in crisis.

The Howley Foundation in partnership with Maher has secured a deposit on a large piece of land for to build a home for orphaned children in Calcutta, India.

Maher is an organization based in the villages around Pune, Maharashtra, India. Maher’s primary function is to provide shelter and care to women and children in times of crisis. Maher was founded in 1997 by a woman named Sister Lucy Kurien, of Kerala, India. In rural India, women can easily become disenfranchised for reasons related to family violence, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, a husband’s death, dowry payment and more. Women in these situations most often have no options beyond prostitution and suicide. Lucy started Maher in response to this desperate situation many women face and she still directs the project today. Although Lucy is a Catholic nun, Maher is an interfaith organization. Maher is also caste-free and Indian-run, which facilitates cultural competence. Maher’s interfaith aspect is very important to its work—the acceptance of different beliefs among the Maher community facilitates understanding and peace at Maher when it comes to differences of all kinds. Maher is astounding India with its success and its services are ever expanding.

Children come with their mothers, as orphans or from families unfit to raise them. Currently, Maher directs 27 children’s homes. At each Maher home there are 2-3 housemothers who lovingly care for up to 30 children. Presently (Aug 2013) Maher cares for 760 children. The children attend local schools and are supported at home with tutoring, playtime, meditation, excellent nutrition and abundant love. Children can stay at Maher on a short or long-term basis. Every morning begins with exercise, yoga, prayer and meditation for all at Maher. This routine seems to contribute to a feeling of harmony within the Maher community, a wonderful atmosphere for blossoming children. As children age, they are supported in following their dreams. Maher encourages them all to attend higher education. Young adults can continue to live at Maher while in college, although some move to be closer to their schools and jobs. Children who grow up at Maher stay connected to the organization, relying on it the way many young adults rely on family for guidance and support. In addition, Maher’s mission stays in the minds and hearts of these young adults, who often contribute to Maher’s efforts from their own earnings. When asked of their future aspirations, many Maher children reply that they want to help people, the way Maher has helped them.

Every woman is welcome to seek refuge at Maher. Upon arrival, women are protected, cared for and listened to. Once the crisis settles, women are supported in what they want to do. Some women wish to pursue self-reliance by getting a job or going to school. If the troubles at home involve dowry payment, and women wish to return home, Maher counselors will gather together all of the family members to discuss the matter. Many peaceful reconciliations among families have been facilitated by Maher. Women can also choose to work within Maher, as employees, caring for children and helping more women rebuild their lives. Maher’s steady growth is largely attributed to this model of women healing women—all of Maher’s housemothers and many of their social workers are women who once sought help from Maher. Each children’s home in each small, rural village, serves as a crisis center for women. Simply the presence of Maher in these villages brings stability to the lives of many women. The fact that women have a source of support in their villages helps them to face familial challenges with strength because they know they are not alone. Women may stay at Maher for as long as they need. Maher has special homes for women with mental disabilities (83 residents), for elderly women, (40 residents) and for women who are pregnant and unmarried. As of Aug, 2013, Maher is sheltering 230 women. In August, 2013, Maher opened their first home for elderly and/or mentally ill men who are found living on the roadside, unable to care for themselves (seven residents).

Community and Environment
In an aim to target the chronic, underlying causes of poverty, Maher conducts grassroots community work in villages and slums. Maher has created 530 microloan co-ops called Self Help Groups (SHG’s) with 10-20 members in each. These groups are also self- and group-education forums, covering topics such as women’s rights, legal aid, alcoholism, family planning and HIV.

Maher also remains ecologically conscious in their work, using solar power and bio-gas, gardening organically and initiating sustainable farming education and clean water programs.