Biography of Anna Ferrer Perry, President of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation and responsible for establishing the organization’s strategy.
This foundation is the result of a fraternity work, a colossal effort whose continuity is in the hands of the promoters of the largest private initiative solidarity project.
Childhood and family of Anna Ferrer
Anna Perry (later Anna Ferrer) was born in a small town called Southend-on-Sea, Essex (United Kingdom), in 1947.
Her mother was named Constance Sarah Perry. She had 3 children: Terry, Lynne and Anna.
Anna and her brother travel outside of England
In April 1963, her older brother Terry, a chemical engineer, told her that she had decided to take a long journey with his wife Carole and their one-year-old daughter.
They would make the long journey by road, with a Land Rover, until they reached Pakistan or India.
Terry invited her to come with them. Anna was 16 years old and in her second year of high school. Her mother gave her permission and she left with them.
Anna’s older sister, Lynne, was a little offended that she did not receive the invitation.
On second thought, however, she was reassured when she realized that living in such a precarious way for a long time did not suit her wishes and customs.
After thousands of kilometers of travel through France, Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Iraq and Iran; With countless breakdowns of the old Land Rover and many varied experiences, Terry found no suitable job in Afghanistan.
Anna and her brother came to India
They decided to sell the Land Rover and took a flight from Kabul to Delhi, in order to find something better in India.
Terry found work in Dharampur and there he stayed with Carole and her daughter.
He accompanied her sister to the city of Mumbay (Bombay) where she found her accommodation in a house for three elderly people.
There Anna could live comfortably, well protected and safe.
In addition, Terry enrolled her in a secretarial course at the YMCA, which lasted 9 months; In addition, he helped her with all her expenses and with clothes.
After the course ended, Anna continued at the YMCA as a teacher.
She often went to her brother’s house to see the three of them. It was a 5-6 hour train ride. But, she enjoyed the company of her sister-in-law and her little niece.
Anna started working as a secretary in a newspaper
Anna started looking for work; and after several failed attempts, in 1965 she was hired as secretary of the commercial department of the weekly “Current“.
Anna settled in Mumbay (capital of the State of Maharastra).
Very soon she felt at home and began to know her host country.
The State of Maharastra is located in west-central India. With 112 million inhabitants, it is the second most populous state in India; and Mumbay was the main economic center of the country.
Anna Perry realized that she had arrived in a huge country with almost 1 billion people.
She found out that every year the population of India increased by 40 million people.
From the year of independence in 1947 (Anna’s birth year), Jawarharlal Nehru and later his daughter Indira Ghandi, began to found numerous universities and technical schools.
Twenty years later, the country was proud of its leading research and development centers.
These teaching centers trained one million highly qualified engineers each year.
In her spare time, Anna began walking around the city.
She was overwhelmed by the spectacle of poverty in many neighborhoods: children running naked through the streets, elderly people clinking their bowls, people washing and relieving themselves on the sidewalks.
Anna meets Vicente Ferrer for the first time
Three years later, on April 27, 1968, the magazine sent her to the Mandman district.
The order was to make a report on the Jesuit Vicente Ferrer, born in Barcelona in 1920.
The interview was motivated by the expulsion order of Vicente Ferrer.
The authorities of the region considered that tje Jesuit destabilized the society.
Since 1952, this Catholic religious was dedicated to eradicating the suffering of the poorest people.
To achieve this difficult objective, he encouraged the digging of wells and the creation of cooperatives.
Father Ferrer worked to free the peasants from the slavery of poverty and drought.
In Mandman as in other parts of the country, peasants often committed suicide.
When they could no longer pay their debts, they drank rodenticide. There were also many deaths caused by drinking contaminated water.
This priest was awakening awareness of human value and generating a great movement of solidarity among the poor of the district.
The system he used to boost the individual economy was based on giving the peasants a small financial aid (without interest) and on offering the technical advice necessary to obtain water for drinking and for crops.
When the agreed period for the loan ended and the peasant returned the loan, that money was passed on to another person in need.
The work of the Jesuit Ferrer had generated many suspicions among the Hindu ruling classes. They saw him as a threat to the Hindu religion.
In India, 80% of the inhabitants are Hindu; 13%, Muslims. For centuries, all religions had coexisted in perfect harmony.
The unfair Breed issue had also been kept in a delicate balance.
India prided itself on being a secular country. All religions were admitted. But each one had to remain in the social place indicated by the caste to which he belonged.
However, after independence, in 1947, increasingly numerous and bloody religious confrontations arose between Hindus and Muslims.
In the second half of the 20th century the coexistence between the innumerable cultures, ethnic groups, castes and religions that make up India was at stake.
Since 1947, rural India has suffered intensely from unemployment, excesses of the caste system, shortages and lack of opportunities.
But, since 1960 the invention of television allowed millions of poor people to see how they had fun and how others ate, in the big cities.
The Jesuit Vicente Ferrer was expelled from India
The rulers of the State of Maharastra saw in Vicente Ferrer a Catholic priest who put too much in evidence; and they issued an immediate expulsion order.
The forced fulfillment of the expulsion order had as a popular response, a peasant movement in favor of Vicente Ferrer.
This mobilization was also joined by a group of intellectuals, politicians and religious leaders.
When Anna Perry knew what Vicente Ferrer was doing with the wells and with the cooperatives, she thought that her obligation was to join this movement in favor of the priest who was going to be expelled.
As soon as possible, she quit her job at the newspaper and started a new life in the Mandmad district.
During the months of April, May and June she joined the pro Vicente Ferrer campaign.
A small newspaper called “Mark of the Nation” had gone to the defense of the priest; He offered Anna Perry a job in exchange for a small living wage.
At this point in events, Anna Perry had realized that she would never be able to forget Vicente Ferrer. She became the secretary of the “Father Ferrer Defense Committee“.
Prime Minister Indira Gandhi found a diplomatic solution to the confrontations that were being generated and that already had international repercussions: she ruled that Vicente Ferrer should leave the country for a season, “a short vacation”, after which he would be welcomed again in the India, anywhere but Mandman.
Anna Ferrer’s brother went to Australia
Vicente Ferrer had to leave India on June 24, 1968. He went to Spain and only in 1969 was he allowed to return to India.
While Vicente Ferrer was in Spain, Anna’s brother had decided to go to Australia, where they had offered him a good job; he was leaving with Carole and their three children.
He traveled to Mombay to ask Anna to go with them.
She did not decide to accompany them. Anyway, Terry gave her the ticket to use when she had changed her mind.
Anna stayed in India with Vicente Ferrer
Vicente Ferrer was only welcomed by the State of Andhra Pradesh, located in southeastern India and with 50 million inhabitants.
The Governor of the Andhra Pradesh district was delighted to be able to collaborate with him and offered to settle in the Anantapur neighborhood, the poorest area of that region.
Tucked in by a small group of six volunteers, among whom was Anna Perry, Vicente began to lead his project again.
One of the volunteers was a certain “Mr. Pereira”, originally from Goa and an expert dowser, a water seeker in dry areas.
Also in Anantapur, radical politicians greeted them with “Ferrer go back” graffiti on the walls.
Far from being intimidated, after three days, Vicente, Anna and the other volunteers already had a house that became their headquarters. They named it ‘Emma bungalow‘.
In this context, the “Rayalaseema Development Consortium” (RDT) was born.
Rayalaseema was the administrative district where the small neighborhood of Anantapur was located.
Anna and Vicente Ferrer joined in marriage
On December 1, 1969, Vicente Ferrer had left the Society of Jesus.
So he married Anna Perry civilly, in a quick and bland ceremony, with only 3 illiterate witnesses.
On April 4, 1970, they were married by a Protestant pastor, in their new home, “Emma Bungalow“.
Many friends were present at the ceremony.
Years later, in 1972, they married again; on that occasion, by the Catholic Church.
When Vicente Ferrer left the Society of Jesus to marry Anna, praiseworthy, indifferent and adverse comments were elicited.
But there is an “exquisite” anecdote that Anna tells in her autobiographical book, with her good command of words, as follows:
“Very shortly after we were married, I visited Mumbai and stopped by to greet Sheila, the secretary to the editor of “Current·, the weekly I had worked for.
Sheila invited me to eat at her house. I had never been there before, and did not know her husband.
Once at her house, Sheila briefly introduced me to Joe: “Anna: this is Joe” (…). Suddenly Joe said out of the blue: ‘Have you heard what that scoundrel Ferrer has done? He has gone and got married! Who does he think he is … marrying a girl twice his age? Who will be the stupid that …? What was she thinking to marry Father Ferrer? Couldn’t you find a better one? “
I sat unperturbed and glanced at Sheila, who was in genuine shock, horrified. “Joe … Joe …” she cut him off, but Joe wasn’t paying attention to her and continued to rant about “priests who marry and women who don’t think with their heads.”
Finally, Sheila couldn’t take it anymore and shouted: “Joe, this is Anna Perry, who worked in my office and now lives in Anantapur and is married to Father Vicente Ferrer!” (…). You could have heard the noise of a pin falling… ”.
Anna Ferrer became the firm support to Vicente
Intelligent and committed, Anna Ferrer Perry showed great leadership and management skills.
She became from the first moment one of the pillars of the organization.
Extremely affected by the sad and unjust situation of women in India, she became a spokesperson for the fight for the rights of all women, especially for the inalienable rights of “untouchable” women.
In India, they did not allow even the slightest concession to breaking the rules governing class separation.
In the life of Sonia Gandhi (an Italian married with a son of Indira Gandhi), it is said that one of the oldest, wisest and most faithful friends of the family was visiting the Gandhi house. Sonia made a very small allusion to the possibility of alleviating the situation of the lower castes a little. The venerable and wise friend got up and left home, without saying a single word.
Anna and Vicente Ferrer in solidarity with the marginalized
From the beginning, the Ferrers did everything possible so that women were valued and respected in their environment.
Anna made every effort to ensure that women occupy positions of responsibility within the organization.
One of its first objectives was the creation of a health network that would reach the entire population.
Another unavoidable objective was to promote the social and labor integration of people with disabilities.
Vicente and Anna Ferrer set themselves the goal of lifting as many people out of poverty as possible.
They thought to do it by establishing sustainable development.
This involved conservation agriculture, micro-credit, water supply, healthcare, and education.
Anna was, along with Vicente Ferrer, the promoter of the development program.
In this way they managed to lift more than 2.5 million people out of extreme poverty in rural India.
Vicente was always the great visionary who set goals and raised financial funds.
Anna was the unconditional support in the organizational and administrative part.
The children of Anna and Vicente Ferrer
Anna and Vicente Ferrer had three children: Tara (1971) who lives in Australia, Moncho (1972) who is still in India and Yamuna (1975) who lives in England.
Despite Anna’s Protestant origin and Vicente Ferrer’s deep Catholic sentiment, they never forced their children to go to mass or to read the Gospel at the table before eating.
They always allowed them absolute freedom in that very intimate part of the human being that is religion.
They were taught that you can live anywhere, but always honestly and with a clear conscience.
And that God is present in all things.
In 1984, they were sent to an international school, 700 km from Anantapur, to the “Kataikanal International School“.
When Moncho turned 18, his parents sent him to England for four years to study International Relations.
By the way, to perfect his English and to get to know the other part of the planet.
Europe would seem like an immaculate paradise, all green, clean and with extremely educated people.
After his stay in England, Moncho spent six months in Barcelona.
In Spain, he learned Spanish well and was able to enjoy a more familiar environment.
Creation of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation
Until 1995, various international organizations had been granting economic funds to maintain the activities of the RDT.
These valuable collaborations had become complicated and the RDT urgently needed financial security.
In order to obtain aid, in 1996 the Vicente Ferrer Foundation was created in Spain.
Currently there is also a Vicente Ferrer Foundation in India.
Both foundations ensure the collection of aid to finance RDT projects and programs in India.
One of the most enthusiastic collaborators in Spain is Teresa Perales, Paralympic swimming champion.
Increase in the work of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation
From that moment, and until their death in June 2009, Vicente and Anna Ferrer led a development program.
Today, it is still alive thanks to the support of more than 130,000 collaborators.
The work team is about 2,900 people, of which 98% are in India.
After almost 50 years of work, Anna Ferrer has the satisfaction of knowing that the Foundation manages:
- five hospitals, one specialized in AIDS patients
- more than a thousand schools; among them: one for blind children and one for deaf children. Also one for children with Down syndrome and another for children with disabilities.
- more than 4,000 houses built.
- 5,000 wells and 420 small reservoirs.
- hundreds of women’s cooperatives
- the sponsorship of 150,000 children.
People benefited by RDT’s work are found in more than 3,000 municipalities in Andhra Pradesh.
There are more than three million people; most of them belong to the caste of the untouchables.
The result of this fraternity work is a colossal miracle. The continuity of this work is in the hands of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation.
The promoters of the largest private initiative solidarity project are Anna Ferrer and Moncho Ferrer Perry.
Death of Vicente Ferrer in India
In March 2009, Vicente Ferrer suffered a stroke. As a result, Vicente Ferrer passed away on June 19, 2009, at the age of 89.
Currently, Anna Ferrer Perry is the President of the Vicente Ferrer Foundation.
She is responsible for establishing the organization’s strategy. In addition, she coordinates the team of managers who manage the different projects financed by the Foundation.
In March 2018, Anna published a book entitled: “A pact of love. My life with Vicente Ferrer ”.
This magnificent book was written by Anna Ferrer with her old Olympia typewriter. She found it by chance after it was laid out for 40 years in a warehouse.
With that same Olympia she had written at full speed, in 1969, the first reports that Vicente Ferrer presented to the authorities, to request subsidies for her projects.