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Celebrating 75 years in India

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This year, MCC is celebrating 75 years of relief, development and peace work in India – making it one of the oldest international aid organizations in the country.

MCC began work in India in 1942 in response to severe famine in Bengal province in which more than two million people died from starvation, malaria and other related diseases.

Over the years, MCC has responded to many other disasters and, through local partners, addressed systemic issues including, poverty, conflict and gender inequity.

According to Gordon Zook, who works as an MCC representative in India alongside his wife Carol Zook, a well-attended anniversary celebration in February proved MCC’s presence in the country has touched many lives.

“One of the key highlights are the individual lives that are being changed through educational sponsorships, YAMEN (Young Anabaptist Mennonite Exchange Network), IVEP (International Volunteer Exchange Program) and people who are participants in projects. At the celebration, we had six people share their stories, and there are thousands more, people whose lives are being changed, people whose communities are being changed,” he said.

The keynote speaker for the two-day 75th anniversary celebration in February was Dr. John Oommen who has seen these changes first hand and is actively participating in bringing about these changes.

Oommen and his wife Mercy are administrators at Bissamcuttack Christian Hospital in Odisha where MCC partners to educate nursing students and midwives courses from low-income families.

“Not only MCC, but all of us are part of a larger mission. Like a jigsaw puzzle. We all think we own the picture, rather than just fitting into the hole cut out for our piece and making the picture that much more beautiful,” Oommen said at the anniversary celebration in Kolkata.

He adds: “Our calling, our mission is to share the suffering and pain of people. This is the example of Jesus.”

Among the guests was one former MCC service worker whose connections to MCC in India dates back more than 50 years. He says his life was touched by serving in the country.

Albert Lobe of St. Jacobs, Ontario, began serving with MCC in India in 1966 in Palamau district, Bihar and stayed there until 1969. Lobe then worked in Kolkata 1977–1980 and 2013–2014.

“Our years in this great country, three in Bihar and four and a half in the marvelous city of Kolkata, captured our imagination and changed us forever. We remember these years in India with deep gratitude,” Lobe says.

According to the Zooks, while much has been done to touch lives and build hope in India, there is still work to be done.

“India will very soon be the most populous country in the world. While the headlines say India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the scale of the population here means that any problem affects a huge number of people,” Gordon says.

Carol says there is such a contrast between the wealthy and the poor. “While most people have cell phones in the cities, and even in the countryside, there are still rural villages without toilets and water.”

The Zooks say they hope to approach MCC’s future work in India through a lens of conflict transformation.

“For example, an irrigation project that brings water into communities also brings conflict into those communities because now there’s a resource to fight over. We want to focus on equipping people to resolve conflicts,” Gordon says.

To learn more about MCC’s work in India, click here.

[Rachel Bergen is the staff writer for MCC Canada.

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