Our Founders: Vincent and Anne Ferrer

Father Vincent Ferrer was born in Barcelona, Spain, on 9th April 1920. During his youth he joined the Society of Jesus in the hope of fulfilling his greatest desire and vocation: to help others. In 1952 he arrived in Mumbai, India, as a missionary. There he founded an NGO called Maharashtra Shethkari Seva Mandal and for the next 16 years he worked to better the lives of poor farmers and agriculture laborers in the area of Manmad. His philosophy and work were very deeply rooted in “concern for others”, “work beyond duty”, “if you are not a brother to another you are not yet a man”. His struggle to eradicate poverty based its principles on “any good deed for others contains within itself all religions, all philosophies and all ideologies.”

Anne Ferrer was born in England in 1947 and got Indian citizenship in 2009. She came to India in 1963 with her brother in an overland trip from England to India by Landover. She continued her studies in Mumbai and in 1965 started working as a young Journalist in a news magazine CURRENT based in Mumbai. She met Father Vincent Ferrer during an interview with him in 1968 and was very much taken up by his philosophy and work amongst the poor people in nearby Manmad. She decided to leave her job in CURRENT and join the cause of the poor.

Father Vincent Ferrer and Anne Perry came to Ananthapuram in January 1969 and founded Women Development Trust (WDT). In 1970 Father left the Society of Jesus and married Anne Perry, both becoming life and work partners. They have 3 children, Tara, Moncho and Yamuna.

Since the beginning Vincent and Anne Ferrer fought relentlessly amidst various obstacles and opposition to pursue their belief that poorest persons should have a life of dignity and equality. They were the team who laid the foundation of WDT. With their combined qualities, Vincent Ferrer dreaming of helping hundreds and thousands of people and Anne with her desire and capability to bring quality and order in the programs of the organization, both together along with their team created what is today WDT, a well established organization able to execute programs in all the fields of development with quality and excellence.

Having to start by scratch and with a land condemned to be a desert Vincent Ferrer was able to make all believe that it was possible to save the land and achieve the overall development of the poorest communities. His ability to motivate others towards his objective of helping thousands and thousands of poor people have a better life was one of the important factors in the development and growth of WDT’s work. He strongly believed in the need to have permanent NGOs that were on the side of the people, helping them in their struggle to come out of poverty, knowing that development is a long process. In his own words: “We are here in Ananthapuram to stay for as long as it takes. We are an integral part of Ananthapuram society, and we do not see our work in terms of 5 years or 10 or 15 years, but for as long as it takes for people to come out of extreme poverty “. He never believed in encouraging people to fight for their rights through confrontation and violence but felt that the same objectives could be achieved empowering the communities to be strong and confident to acquire access to education, health and other basic services.

Anne Ferrer has always played a big role in maintaining the unity and spirit of the organization and to see that the element of human value and kindness for every individual is not lost. She is the guiding hand behind the initiation and growth of the community health program, rural hospitals and the program of persons with disabilities always insuring that these sectors work towards helping those living in the rural areas to better their lives and have access to clean and efficient services. Along with other women colleagues in the organization in the early 1990s she formed the important Women Core Team comprising women representatives of different levels, management, grass-root and from all departments with the intention of providing space for the growth of women in the organization in a discrimination free environment and encouraging their leadership. Today 41% of staff members working in the organization are women as against 10% in the early years.

Vincent Ferrer was very much loved and admired by one and all in Ananthapuram and Spain. He received many international awards for his outstanding work and a life entirely dedicated to others. He died in 2009 but he remains permanently in the hearts of millions of people of Ananthapuram, thanks to his WDT family, which continues his legacy.

At present Anne Ferrer is the Executive Director of WDT giving positive direction to build up a strong, stable and competent organization which is capable of carrying out the Mission, Vision and Dharma of WDT.