While doing our reasearch on the plight of the widows of Vrindavan, one organization stood out as a beacon of hope for these helpless and shunned widows-The Guild of Service-Started by one woman, a widow herself, Dr. Mohini Giri . Losing her husband when she was 50, Dr. Giri endured the social humiliation that comes with being a widow. At times, she was asked not to attend weddings because her presence was considered bad luck. "Generally all widows are ostracized," she says. "An educated woman may have money and independence, but even that is snatched away when she becomes a widow. We live in a patriarchal society. Men say that culturally as a widow you cannot do anything: You cannot grow your hair, you should not look beautiful." She adds, "It's the mind-set of society we need to change -- not the women."
The Guild of Service first set up a refuge called Amar Bari, or "My Home," in Vrindavan. It became a refuge for about 120 of India's widows. They have just recently opened a second home Ma-Dham, a home for both young and old widows in Vrindavan. It has a capacity for 500 women. A small hospital is available on the premises, as well as a center for practical medical/nursing training and education. The older women who live here find a safe refuge with a healthy environment, and dignity of human life. They are taught some basic cottage industry skills to keep their hands and feet moving. The younger women are taught valuable skills for earning so that they can take control of their lives. These skills range from nurses' training, to improving computer skills, to training in embroidery skills, etc. The Guild of Service is making great strides in helping these women, but much more still needs to be done. As Dr. Giri states "mine is but a drop in the bucket."
My goal is to work with the Guild of Service to raise needed funds and to start Service Trips so that people from all over the world can get involved and help these forgotten women. Please contact me if you want to learn how you can get involved!