How a Parisian Fashion Designer Joined the Church, Became a Mother to 79 Children

Searching for Something More

Pelous found joy in her newfound faith and soon married a fellow Church member. However, things got tough when they struggled to have children. “I went through all the procedures to have them,”
Pelous shares. “The procedures were difficult and painful. We did everything we could, but it still did not work out.”

Eventually, Pelous and her husband divorced.

As time went on, she began to feel her life was missing something. “Turning fashion designs into expensive clothing lacked meaning,” she says. “I felt that there was much more I could do.”

She continues, “I began to evaluate myself, and I realized I didn’t have the life that I wanted. I had many blessings and much to be grateful for—a loving family, an education, health, abundance, and the gospel. Many people in the world could only dream of a life like mine, and I knew I wanted to share these blessings with those who needed them most.”

So Pelous began searching for inspiration, which she found in the selfless example of Mother Teresa. “To me, she was the person who best exemplified helping and serving others,” she recalls. “So I wrote to her. One month later, I received a reply. It was a very short letter—just one sentence: ‘Come, all hands are needed.’”

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A Pattern of Charity

In 1986, Pelous flew to Calcutta, India, to join Mother Teresa in caring for the sick and the poor. “I told her that I needed to find my way—that I wanted to feel useful in the world,” she says. “I began
caring for [leprosy victims] and delivering medical supplies. I visited the care centers and the orphanages.”

The orphanages of India were filled with children who had lost their parents to diseases caused by lack of proper hygiene or malnourishment. Some children had even been orphaned due to tiger attacks.

“[The children] suffered from many health problems,” Pelous says. “They had intestinal troubles, vitamin deficiencies, skin problems, and other diseases.”

Pelous herself contracted paratyphoid on her first trip to India and was bedridden for nine months. Still, she remained undeterred.

“When I saw the children in the orphanages, I knew I had to continue,” she recalls. “Their sweet faces and hopeful eyes touched my heart.”

After her first trip to India, Pelous was determined to return the following year, and she already knew exactly how she wanted to help. A local organization had built a poultry yard in Banipur with
120 hens—enough to provide the 800 orphans with one egg per week. Unfortunately, the hens were dying, and soon the children’s diets would suffer from lack of protein.

When Pelous returned to her work in Paris, she immediately began setting money aside to replace the poultry yard and buy feed for the hens. But soon she realized her savings would not be nearly enough. “I told my friends and family about my project, and I was deeply moved by their generosity,” she recalls. Church members from Pelous’s stake also donated, and the next year Pelous
returned to India with money to purchase building materials, 120 laying hens, 120 chickens, 30 laying ducks, and enough grain to feed the animals for a year.

But this was just one of the many projects Pelous would spearhead throughout India that would not only provide relief to families in need but would teach them how to become self-reliant. In the village of Pilkhana, for example, Pelous used her expertise in fashion to teach young women to make patterns and to cut and sew clothing. The girls would then make clothing for themselves
and the other orphans.

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In Belari, Pelous also helped to create and fund a school and a nursery for undernourished babies. With money earned by the youth of Pelous’s Paris stake, villagers were able to drill a well and purchase a pump. And in Banipur, she helped cultivate a vegetable garden to feed the orphans, as well as a fishing pond that produces about 600 pounds of fish each year.

“I model my projects after the principles of the Church welfare system,” she explains. “Everyone helps. Even young children have responsibilities like feeding the chickens or tending the garden.”

Even with so many successes, Pelous still was not satisfied with her efforts.

“With each trip to India, I learned something new,” she says. “But I still felt there was something else for me.”

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