KENDALLVILLE, Ind. (WANE) — Dora Boomstra lives a quiet life in Kendallville these days, but for over 40 years she was in India spreading the word of God and encouraging young girls to reach their highest potential.
“What I am today, that’s because of Miss Boomstra,” said Selvi Babu, a former student of Boomstra’s.
That sentiment is shared among those who learned from and worked with Boomstra, 99, while she taught at the VRV Girls Higher Secondary School in South India. Boomstra did missionary work and taught at the school from 1949 until 1992 and in that time was a powerful, positive force on thousands of girls who affectionately called her “Mom”.
“I was a student under her and the way, the discipline that she gave us, still we follow,” said Evelyn Jeremiah, the current headmistress of the VRV school.
According to Boomstra’s family, she decided to go to India for missions work because, “she would tell us the feeding of 5000, what if the disciples just fed the first row? What about the other people?”
Boomstra’s students recalled her lessons of God and discipline, as well as nights of her teaching hymns in her bungalow. She also taught the students to play piano and pushed many of them to pursue education beyond high school.
“After finishing our college degree or our high school, she will take us to you know like the nursing college and to the teachers training, she will take us literally like our mom to the colleges to put us in, in the admission,” said former student Selvi Babu, who works as a nurse in Florida. “She’s really a mom, I can say that.”
Boomstra had no children of her own, but her former students wanted her to know that her role in their lives as a second mother had a lasting impression. Around 30 former students and colleagues planned a video call with their surrogate mother to celebrate Mother’s Day. They put together videos with messages of dozens of other former students talking about their appreciation for Boomstra’s work.
“She has lighted the lamp in so many lights of the girl children, especially,” said Jeremiah.
“That brilliant knowledge that was found with her was highly dedicated, and there is no words to explain about it,” Baggiyaelvi Prabhu said. “From the bottom of my hearts. we are grateful to have.”
For Boomstra, reaching those girls was one of the most fulfilling parts of her life.
“You have the ups and downs in your missionary work just as much as if, if you’re at home,” Boomstra said. “It was just that we kept in mind why we were doing these things.”
After her more than 40 years of work in India her mark is still very much visible on the community. A block at her former school is dedicated to her, and one of her students went on to name a preschool after Boomstra.