Those at the orphanage in India call her Didi, which means “big sister,” a title of affection granted to only a few. Cecile Pelous, of the Paris First Ward, Paris France Stake, is a fashion designer. She has designed for the finest names in fashion—Dior, Cardin, Ricci. But the world of high fashion became only a means to a more important end when Cecile visited India in July 1986.
That summer, Cecile spent six weeks working with the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa and the Little Sisters of the Poor in Calcutta, helping with sick children, the elderly, and the handicapped. Then she worked in the slums of Pilkana, where she learned of the problems of the young orphan children for whom the Indian government cannot afford to care.
Sister Pelous lived and worked in an ashram (a religious retreat) in Banipur, one of eight orphanages for children from ages five to twelve. “The conditions there moved me so deeply,” Cecile comments, “that I knew I had to find a way to get back again to help.”
She returned to her job in Paris, determined to save enough money to help construct a chicken coop and buy hens to provide eggs to feed the undernourished children. With savings and donations from friends and family, she returned to India in August 1987 to carry out the poultry project. She also purchased thirty geese and distributed them to the eight orphanages.
In 1988, Cecile returned to Salkhia, near Calcutta, and taught orphan girls ages twelve to seventeen to print batik designs on material, which they could then sell to provide funds for the orphanage. Cecile’s fashion design experience gave her sufficient knowledge to train the girls to make patterns and to cut and sew their own clothing. The girls now produce all the clothes for the more than eight hundred children in the eight orphanages. In 1989, Sister Pelous also organized a day-care center in Belari for forty children, ages three through five.
“Once people have sufficient food and clothing, they can begin to respond to the gospel,” says Cecile. She is learning Bengali herself and has given copies of the Book of Mormon in Bengali to people who have asked her about the Church and its beliefs.