Clara Mridula Biswas is a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church serving as a community worker in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She works with the ‘poorest of the poor,’ especially children, in slum areas and garbage dumps to facilitate their transfers to relocation and rehabilitation centers.
“To bring hope to the hopeless, bring light to those who are in the dark, bring Christ to the poor, and share the love of God,” (Luke 4:18-19) summarizes Clara’s understanding of her service. She sees the objectives as “sharing the love of God, helping children obtain an education by opportunities to study through scholarship, improving living conditions by providing vocational training, providing medical care and financial support to the ill, and with education creating awareness on human trafficking, human rights, and domestic violence.”
The program supports 620 students in public schools by providing classes in such areas as music, computer science, and art. It offers Sunday school and conducts Christmas and Easter programs each year. A health component refers patients to hospitals and non-governmental organization (NGO) health centers. Clara has worked for a long time with a church at one of the dumpsites, and now also works with the Berung Kok Methodist Church in Phnom Penh’s large slum area of Toul Kork, which is near the railway station and similar to the dumpsite areas. She also networks with other churches and NGOs, as well as visiting, monitoring, and caring for patients.
Prior to her commissioning as a missionary, Clara was in Bangladesh with Food for the Hungry International (FHI), a Christian service group based in the United States. As the community development area manager, she served the poor, lower caste, and oppressed by supervising, managing, and monitoring education and development programs from 1983 to 1998. Clara also served as the program director of the Christian student center at Sendai City in Japan. She emphasized issues of justice, development, international understanding, worship, and equality from a Christian perspective.
“When people are able to get jobs and when they get assurance they can continue to study in higher levels of education, and that gives them hope for a better future. It is joyful to watch the faces of happy children as they go to places they had never gone before. Although we bring the Gospel informally, we see the joy of the children singing Gospel songs and performing in dramas depicting Christmas and Easter.”
Clara has extensive experience as a volunteer in the Student Christian Movement. Her training in international, cross-cultural, and women’s empowerment meetings is vast. She speaks English, Bengali, Hindi, and Japanese.
Born in Barisal, Bangladesh, Clara holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in social science and a diploma in rural leadership and development from the Asian Rural Institute in Tochigi-Ken, Japan. She is a member of the Church of Bangladesh, a united denomination.
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