Friday, March 12, 2010

Oasis of Love

Meher Children’s Village, an oasis for orphans in Madukkarai, was far off from illusion we had of an orphanage. When we entered its large gate, we could feel the largeness of the place as we walked across the gate to the home. “Ellam ennude thangachi makkal mathiri” (“I feel all are like my sister’s kids”), mind the words of the van driver Kumarasamy, about Meher kids. The dedication for these kids is quite visible from security guard to the supreme authorities.

Sitting in the office room that had framed a Meher family tree with a kid’s picture on each branch, Davis Jayaraj, the manager, insisted only on one thing, not to click photographs or videos. According to Davis, “we don’t want to make this a zoo for people.” This makes the kids, especially the teenagers, uncomfortable, and so journalists are not entertained much for the same reason.

Inspired by SOS villages, R. Kumar and his wife started Meher in 1993, which is now literally a village with 95 children and 13 mothers. These mothers are the employees of this organization earning a salary of Rs.4,000/- and is committed to take up 7-8 children. Before they could become part of the Meher Group they are being confronted with various problems that they will have to face as the kids grow up. Usually these mothers would be singles, widow or divorcees. More than education, the ability to communicate with kids is the main criteria. The new mothers are trained under senior mothers. “I have been the part of this institution for past fifteen years and though disturbing at times, I am happy to be with these kids.” says Vasantha, a senior mother. The main task of these mothers is to take care of the children and give them a homely environment.

‘Meher Eira Charitable Trust’ does not get help from any organization or government. It is a family owned organization without any branches. They do not believe in advertising and work hand in hand with various NGOs and police. The organization is contacted when a distress child under age of 5 years is found. Before making them a part of Meher village, a thorough background research of the kid is done. These children are provided home and financial support is given inside the village for their education and other basic necessities till the time they find a job or get married. The financial assistance might stop with the growing age but the emotional support is available till the end.

The kids and their mother lead a normal middle class life. They are given education in English medium schools. Sports and recreation facilities like karate and various dance forms are taught. Once in a year, these kids are taken to tour for a week. Proper physical and mental care is taken as Davis uncle of these kids said, “This is the only home they know to look upon and come back to.”

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