06 Oct Photographing for Vanitashray in Pune India
Sitting in Anu Silas’s home in Pune, the spices of India still playing with my taste buds after our meal, Anu shared her story. The occasional power blackouts surrounded us in darkness but Anus voice could still be heard.
At ten months of age, baby Anu Silas was dropped off at an orphanage, a facility with over 2000 children who had no one to call their own. Young Anu lived the life of those she now fights fiercely to defend, abused at the hands of those whose job it was to protect her, life was hard.
Sadly, Anus story is not uncommon in this country of 1.3 billion people, a country rich in heritage and traditions but also a place with tremendous divides. A country where the average annual income is only $617 a year. Extreme poverty creates desperate situations.
Choosing to use the pain in her life as a catalyst for helping others is what sets Anu’s Story apart, at the heart of her story lies the decision to forgive.
With only the candles illuminating during this part of the story, the faces of Anu’s two daughters, Alicia and Sunayna as well as my own daughter carissa, could be seen as well.
At age 7, Anu was one of only seven girls out of the 2000 in her orphanage to be recognized for their giftedness in learning, selected for a convent school in Pune.
On holidays Anu would return to the orphanage, spending time with friends she now considers sisters. Anu experienced abuse at this facility by the person in charge of her care. Not being one to tolerate injustice to herself or others Anu spoke out, this led to her being transferred out of the orphanage, separated from close friends, her sisters.
Through it was meant for harm, Anus new boarding school in Mumbai offered learning advantages she otherwise would not have had. This school recognized her abilities and upon graduation offered her a government position in the UK.
God had other plans for Anu’s life though and her spirit did not feel clear to accept. Instead, Anu acted on her conscience and chose to leave the school and go out on her own at the age of 19. A moment she remembered at the age of 8 still guided her, alone in the prayer room of her orphanage, God had given her a vision that she would one day be the mother of many. It was a dream that she found unthinkable at the time, but God’s spirit persisted.
Now at the age of 19, sitting at the train station in Mumbai, she had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. Fortunately for Anu, a social worker at the school she graduated from happened by, saw her and took her in. For six months this was her home.
During that time she realized that she had always carried a heaviness, a burden to clear her spirit with the lady who abused her at the orphanage. Even though Anu was the victim, God moved upon her heart to seek out the abuser and forgive her for what she had done. Anu traveled to Pune and did just that, her spirit cleared.
While in Pune, Anu connected with a YWAM (Youth With A Mission) group, it was though this group of Christian students that Anu met the love of her life, her husband Silas Dongardive who taught there. He was the first person to care about her needs and to make sure that she was looked after. When he learned her story and found that she had been seperated from the childhood friends she considered her sisters he searched until he had found them. Sister Sunetra whom you see in these photos, lives with Anu now as a result of that search.
Anu had never experienced the kind of unconditional love that her dear Silas gave and at the age of 21 she became his wife. Shortly afterwards, God blessed this sweet union with two little princesses, Alisha and Sunayna. It was during this time of their life that Silas started Vanitashray, a ministry to orphans and destitute women in Maharashtra India.
After only a few years of marriage, Anu experienced the heartbreaking loss of dear Silas, 4 and 6 year old Sunayna and Alisha were without a father, lost to a brain aneurysm.
Anu’s life had always been characterized by setbacks and tough decisions. Anu chose to focus on those in her city of Pune that were destitute and in need, honoring Silas by carrying out the goals of the ministry he started.
20 years later over 2000 families have experienced needed shelter offered through the help of Vanitashray, fulfilling their mission of Providing a Home for Orphans, Unwanted and Destitute Women .
Currently, Vanitashray’s school has 120 children in attendance but Anu’s vision continues to expand. Land has been purchased that will accommodate up to 3500 children and a new community development center that will further their expand their reach.
During my time with Anu and her two daughters, seeing all aspects of this life changing ministry, it was clear that God’s presence is here. I am so glad that 8 year old Anu listened to God’s voice and has stayed true to his calling for her life.
Thank you Anu for allowing me to photograph for your ministry and assist in telling your story. Mine and Carissa’s time with you and your daughters was very special and I am grateful.