“Leena Lavanya is an exceptional person. Rarely do the capacities of energy, vision, talent and spirituality coincide with such intensity in a single human being to the extent that one encounters in this exceptional woman …. In a ministry that flows with grace, purpose, courage and self-denial, Leena has rightly been recognized as a person of distinction. She has established a footprint that serves both as a visible testimony to the power of hope in the midst of despair and a model that demonstrates what personal compassion can achieve when fired by creative activism”. (A reflection by a visitor to ServeTrust)
Leena Lavanya’s Story Begins…
Leena Lavanya, founder and director of ServeTrust, is a remarkable Indian woman who has dedicated her life to serving the “poorest of the poor” in India. Her inspiration for living such a life was her grandparents, outstanding models of service to the poorest and marginalized in society. As customary in Indian society, Leena, as the first beloved child, was raised by her grandparents. She lived on the grounds of a seminary campus in Ramapatnam, close to the sea, where her grandfather, Reverend B.R. Moses, served as Principal. He was a strong Indian Baptist leader, serving as a Vice President of the Baptist World Alliance. But he was known among the Telegu-speaking people for his works of service to those that lived on the margins of society. Her grandparent’s care for the poor, sparked an initial flame in Leena’s heart for the destitute people of India
When Leena was 18, she returned home to her parents in Narasaraopet and continued her education. Unable to study medicine because of financial constraints, Leena earned Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education degrees, and taught biology at a local high school. In her spare time, Leena followed her heart and reached out to needy people. She had already begun some low-key social ministries when she received a scholarship to attend a Baptist World Youth Conference in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1993. It was a workshop led by American Baptist leader Tony Campolo that had the greatest impact on Leena, then a young woman in her mid-20’s. Campolo pointed out that while Christians sing “All to Jesus I surrender”, in reality they surrender very little. So Leena determined that from then on she would dedicate her life to serving Christ and His neediest children in India. And so she has. With the assistance of her caring and supportive family, Leena has grown ServeTrust Ministries to the holistic and comprehensive array of ministries that is today ServeTrust.
Leena the Person…
Possessed with boundless energy and enthusiasm, vision, and compassion, Leena Lavanya is exceptional person with a winsome personality. Few people command the love and respect of the people with whom they work, as does Leena. Expectant and approving eyes follow her as she walks among the people in villages where she spends much of her time. A throng of children accompany her almost everywhere she goes.
Yet Leena would vigorously deny such accolades. She is a humble person whose overwhelming desire in life is to serve the poorest of the poor. She does not glide among her people like some mystical saint. Rather, she gets her hands dirty, kneels in the dust, cleanses wounds and wipes away tears. Her own tears may mingle with the sufferer’s tears, but she also offers smiles and laughter for those who cross her path.
Leena the Leader…
Her work among HIV/Aids patients, sex workers, prisoners, leprosy sufferers, street kids, the aged and frail and unemployed young people is widely known throughout the Guntur District. The scope and quality of what she manages is exceptional. She not only administrates, but is totally hands on, knowing the names and circumstances of all she encounters, and displaying an incomparable level of love and concern.
Leena is a visionary. When combined with her big heart, Leena’s ideas for caring for other’s burdens naturally outstrip the funds available to address them. So she uses her entrepreneurial skills within her own community to augment ministry contributions. This has included raising and selling goats, engaging in real estate investment, operating a grocery shop, and tutoring at the local high school in the early morning hours.
Leena’s leadership is well recognized. Awards include the Rotary Outstanding Woman President, the Mahatma Gandhi Award for the Most Effective NGO in the Guntur district, and international recognition as the recipient of the Baptist World Alliance’s Denton and Janice Lotz Human Rights Award.
Leena has inspired countless others around the world to live lives of service.