The village is in Chennai, there is a ‘supernatural’ element and a hint of Evangelism.

Dear Nicki Minaj your charity in an Indian village funded 10 computers and a bit more
news Charity Wednesday, May 24, 2017 - 19:28

For a few days now, people in India have suddenly been talking about American rapper Nicki Minaj. On her Instagram page, Nicki posted that she had been sending money to a village in India for the last couple of years:

While Nicki Minaj herself just spoke about 4 particular programmes in the unnamed village, the headlines that followed were the kind that painted pictures of a poor village in ruins saved by a star.

Nicki Minaj has been sending money to Indian village for 2 years, and no one knew, said one headline. Nicki Minaj Quietly Kept Sending Funds To An Indian Village, Today It's Fully Developed, said another. Nicki Minaj Quietly Sent Funds To An Indian Village – it is Now Totally Transformed, screamed a third.

But where is this village? And how has Nicki Minaj’s money been used to transform it? No one knew the answer, until now.

TNM visited the ‘village’ - except, this ‘village’ is inside Chennai. To be specific, it’s Thiruvalluvar Nagar in Ennore, approximately 40 minutes away from the Chennai Central Railway Station with average traffic.

And behold the ‘transformation’ that some sections of the media have been harking about: Inside a church in the bylanes of Thiruvalluvar Nagar is a ‘Supernatural Computer Centre’ with four computers, and a ‘Supernatural Tailoring Centre’ with a bunch of sewing machines! They also have a few teachers to take lessons for the students.

To be fair to Nicky, she didn’t exactly claim a transformation - that ‘supernatural’ claim rests with the media alone.

But if a rich and popular rapper from America has been sending money to this ‘village’ for years - surely, the end result isn’t a bunch of machines that any under-funded NGO in India would be able to put together?

What is ‘supernatural’?

Inside Thiruvalluvar Nagar in Ennore is the Kirubasanam church - home to Pearl Foundation. Within this church is the computer centre that Nicki Minaj mentions in her Instagram post: Four computers spread across a room, with a huge poster of apostle Lydia Woodson Sloley dominating the room.

Apostle Lydia - mentioned in Nicki Minaj’s Instagram post - is a senior pastor and founder of Life in its Poetic Form Christian Ministries, or LIPF, which is based out of Brooklyn in New York. She’s the author of three books, including one called ‘The Supernatural Woman’, and changes people’s lives in her supernatural ways.

And that, of course, is the reason why the computer centre and tailoring unit are called ‘Supernatural’.

LIPF has tied up with the Pearl Foundation to help the women in Thiruvalluvar Nagar in Ennore - the village that actually isn’t a village. With funds from Nicki Minaj, Pearl Foundation in association with LIPF also runs a computer centre in Kolathur which has six computers, and has dug up a well in the village of Atipattu.

Once we solved that mystery, TNM set out to find out exactly how the ‘Supernatural’ centres have transformed the village that isn’t.

4 computers and a tailoring unit

According to Manimegalai, a caretaker at the church, around 50 children come to the computer centre every day to learn MS Office, C++, Photoshop and Tally.

How does the math work out between 50 children and 4 computers? "There is another centre downstairs," Manimegalai tells us. Except, this centre must be extra-supernatural, because it was invisible.  

The tailoring unit has so far taught 60 women how to stitch, the foundation claims. In addition to tailoring and computer classes, the foundation also conducts tuition for underprivileged children.

While there’s no doubt that the centre is helpful to the women and children in the area, the media’s claims of ‘transformation’ and ‘total development’ are clearly overstated.

So how much of Nicki Minaj’s money has gone into a few computers and some tailoring machines?

When TNM posed the question to pastor John Samuels, the man behind the Pearl Foundation, the answer we got was that the information is ‘confidential’.

"Only John Samuels know the details of the funding and he doesn't share it with us," says 29-year-old Elizabeth, who joined the foundation three years back.

Charity or missionary?

John Samuels is the man in the video Nicki Minaj posted on Instagram. Currently in Germany to attend a conference, the pastor replied to TNM’s questions via email. While he confirmed the tie-up between LIPF and Pearl, he conspicuously left the answer to one question blank: Does the foundation do conversions?

In a video from 2015, shot at the tailoring unit, John Samuels says, “Many women have been saved and baptised, who came to this tailoring institute. From the deep of my heart, I thank LIPF, especially our apostle Lydia Houston.” (sic)

Manimegalai, the caretaker of the church, tells TNM the story of her own conversion.

"I was a devotee of the Melmaruvatthur Amman for four decades. Even after my husband died, I used to regularly visit the temple. But some years back, my elder son passed away. It left me broken and I was losing all hope. Following this, my younger son and I came here regularly, from 2012. It gave us so much peace that we all converted to Christianity," she says.

The administrator, Elizabeth, insists that foundation and the church are exclusive entities - despite the fact that they share the same premises. Any mention of conversions is first met with outright disagreement. But when TNM showed Elizabeth the video of John Samuels, she admits, “Yes we do baptise some of them.”

“But that is because when somebody comes to God, something will touch them and they hear our prayers and all good things. If they are committed to Jesus, we will baptise. If they are ready to come regularly to church, we will do it," Elizabeth says.

But won't this video, of the pastor claiming that women are baptised here, create a certain perception, we ask Elizabeth. "No, we only baptise those who come up to us. They believe that several problems in their life can be solved by following Jesus," she retorts.

The celebrity, according to CBS News, is worth USD 70 million. While she may have done more charities through the 'supernatural' centres, this is what TNM was able to find in the  villages of Chennai.

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