Yesterday went to Avvai illam in Adyar. We had agreed to sponsor for lunch for that day. The warden asked us to come there at 12.30. It was an emotional trip down the memory lane for the same place was once patronised by my dad.
We arrived dot on time (something of a record considering my notoriously unpunctual ways..but, that i wouldnt have missed the trip for anything in the world is a totally different thing). To our dismay we found both the main doors to be locked and since it was sunday no one picked the fone in the office. To our luck one cute looking kid, who was playing near the door, heard our voice and came to our help. We told her that we wanted to meet the warden. You should've seen the enthu with which the kid dashed towards the office room. The warden was an old lady (should've been in her late sixties) who was providing free service, being in her post retirement days. She took us through the place and gave us a brief history of that institution which has been founded on 1931.
Its dedicated only to gal children and has got a school and teacher training institute in its campus apart from a sprawling ground with volleyball and badminton courts. [One point to note is that they have two ferocious looking dogs which are un used to male visitors, as informed by the lady. Luckily I was walking with the warden. ]
We went through the buildings there which were in a really sad condition. I guess ever since they were built they would've hardly seen any renovation. The electrical wirings were dangerously old and were quite scary. The slanting roof made of "Odu" had some holes and were also in a real need for repair.
Since it was holiday, we couldnt see many kids and most of whom we saw, were busy washing clothes. The warden rang the bell for lunch and suddenly out of nowhere the dining hall was swarmed with kids. It was an amazing feeling to see so much kids after a long time and each one carried their own numbered plate for lunch. Those who had missed their plates shared it with their friends. All their chirpiness and laughter were so heart whelming and was a real joy to watch. When the warden rang the bell asking them to pray there was pindrop silence. All the children had their eyes closed and were actually saying some prayer. It was cute and heart breaking at the same time :(
We had actually taken camera to take snaps but felt so overwhelmed that we decided against it. I was surprised to see initials in front of all their names and when we checked with the warden we were shocked to hear that almost all the kids in that institute have parents!! In fact for around 50 of them they've both the parents alive, who for reasons known only to them, have left their kids in that place. And most of the remaining 200 and odd kids had atleast one parent, mostly mothers who got married to someone else and after their second marriage have left the kids there!!
I checked with them on what would be more helpful for them as a contribution. They accept anything as a contribution - be it food,clothes,money or physical help.
For feeding 200 plus kids one course of meal they require Rs 2000. They also run a school and educational expense for a kid in higher secondry comes upto 500 per annum and senior secondry comes close to Rs 1500 i guess. I dont remember. Also they want funds for renovating their buildings and for constructing new ones.
I came back from that place with my perspective on my wants and needs totally changed. oru veedu vaangina udanay konja naalikapurum oor pakkama oru land vaangi podalam..pinnala appreciate aana vithuralam ila..retire aarapo veedu katikitu poidalam apdinu poati poatukitu vaangi podra properties (there by increasing rates everywhere), iniki lower end version vangirukara cara pathu naaliku luxury version vaangarathukaga uzhaikara mentality, vaangina costly dress kulla fit aagarthukaga weight reduction programnu wastea kedakara patini... Uyir vaazha thevapadra basic necessities..iruka edam uduka udai unna unavu..ithu moonuthukay daily yarkitenthu varumnu kai yenthi nikkaravangala paakrachay.. intha mathiri materialistic ideas and thoughtslaam crimea thonuthu.
How so little effort from our side can have such a drastic change on their lives and how selfish my thoughts seem when compared to their situation. And how blessed we are and how much we complain over things which appear so trivial when compared to what those kids lack. Even if we spare our used stuff with them, that itself would help them a big way.
I am more than sure that, all of us have a good samaritan in us, waiting for an opportuntity and a slight push in the correct direction. And more often than not we have this hesitancy over the legitimacy of a person or institution before we part with our hard earned stuff. The only way to get over it is to actually visit places like these and get a feel of your own. Believe me, words can hardly explain that feeling. I know of two people ( Nandu and Sat) who are already into this in a big way and have dedicated more than their time and money in efforts like this and are running an organisation called SMILE (for more details http://smilewelfarefoundation.blogspot.com/). And i am sure there are many more who are silentlly doing their bit for the society. Hope we get many more like them. May their tribe grow.