Helping Girls Become Women
Elizabeth Abel now lives nearly 9,000 miles away from Lady Doak College, yet still feels a deep sense of gratitude for the education she received at this Christian college for women. “It was a place for inspiration, where we were taught to think independently and globally,” she recalled in a recent interview. Students were encouraged to be leaders, and outside activities made them socially aware. “The school helped girls to become women, and showed us how to go out into the world,” she said. “We knew Lady Doak College was a stepping stone to something bigger in life.”
Now living in the United States, Ms. Abel finds herself drawn to the story of Katie Wilcox, the missionary founder of Lady Doak College, and her conviction that education could empower women. Ms. Abel saw that same example of “women who wanted education for women” during her own four years at Lady Doak College, particularly in the warm, supportive nature of Shanti Manuel, who served as principal at the time, and in the example of “teachers who built good relationships with their students, not only in the classroom, but through clubs and other activities.” It was a Christian education, she said, “that showed concern for those who were less well-off and asked us what Jesus would do.”
In recent years, Ms. Abel has been reflecting on the people who made a positive impact on her life. The educators she knew during her four years at Lady Doak College immediately came to mind, and she expected that other alumnae living in the United States felt the same way. So she began contacting alumnae she knew and encouraged them to reach out to others, building a group of people who wanted to share their experiences in the United States and help their alma mater. She applied her IT skills to building a database of alumnae and relied on social media to spread news of the group. When Mercy Pushpalatha, Lady Doak’s current principal, and other faculty members visited the United States, alumnae gathered together to learn about student life and developments on campus.
The alumnae group is working toward having a formal charter and a strong project plan, and the women feel it is important that their efforts are in sync with the college’s needs. “Dr. Mercy gives us 110-percent support.” Ms. Abel said. “She told us to go ahead and do what our hearts tell us, and Lady Doak College will build on this.” The alumnae network, now about 100 strong, decided to support a scholarship fund. “We encourage people to give,” Ms. Abel said. “We don’t have to ask for a big amount – we start with small contributions and ask our alumnae to ask others.” This type of outreach builds a spirit of giving, and in this way, the Lady Doak alumnae place their own stepping stones on a path that enables young Indian women to pursue higher education.
The United Board is grateful to Elizabeth Abel for her monthly contributions in support of Lady Doak College.