It is just another day in the life of 70 children at the little orphanage in a small town in coastal Karnataka. It is a Sunday evening, a time to play in the large yard in front of their home. It is heart warming to see them smile and bounce about. Some of them play joyfully with a visitor’s toddler. Some rush to open the gates to a visitor’s car. They greet the visitor with a cheerful
The two bhaginis (wardens), Gunavati and Chitrakala, bustle about showing the visitors around the home, even as head cook Sushilamma serves them
lotas (steel tumblers) of fresh warm milk, from their own barn. The orphanage has a
go-shaala with 13 cows to provide milk to the children.
Life at Bala Samrakshana Kendra is all about discipline, building self-reliance and instilling cultural values. The children wake up at 5 am on a weekday. They spend about 30 minutes in the bathroom. The next 30 minutes are spent in prayers, yoga and singing of patriotic songs. Between 6 and 7 am, the children study and do their school work. The next one-hour, before they leave for school, is spent cleaning their home. Each child is allocated a job. The older kids wash their clothes, and the clothes of the younger children. They sweep and swab the floors, and help with the kitchen work.
Breakfast is usually ganji (rice porridge). The kids in high school carry their lunch boxes with them. Usually it is rice and
By 5 pm, most children are back home from school. They head to the kitchen, where the two cooks and the part time help have rustled up some snacks. It could be
dosa, or upma or idlis. By 6.30 pm, the children are seated in the prayer hall. After 30 minutes of prayer, the children get ready to tackle their schoolwork. Dinner is at 8.30, following which the kids help clean-up. The older kids read the day’s newspaper, or even choose to study until 10.30 pm.
Weekends are spent watching TV, using the computers, or reading. The three-storied home has a library that is surprisingly filled with resources and books of all kinds. The computer room has six to seven computers. The wardens are grateful to the kindness of donors who have made this possible.
The home is clean and has a warm atmosphere. The kitchen is large. The halls are neat. The girls and boys have separate dorms to sleep in and store their personal belongings.
The kendra provides free food, shelter, clothing and medical facilities for all the children.
What happens to the children when they grow up? Some get into jobs, some make it to college, some girls are even married off.
One can’t help but come back from a visit to the home with a lump in the throat. These children have next to nothing, and yet they are the most loving, caring and respectful bunch of kids you’ve ever seen. Their faces light up with gratitude when a visitor offers them sweets. They’ve probably never seen the things our pampered children take for granted. They’ve probably never been to a restaurant, or gone shopping for clothes or toys. Yet they take joy in the little things offered to them.
These 70 kids are probably far luckier than the millions of destitute orphans who do not make it to a home like this one. That makes you hope and pray that this loving, giving bunch of innocent victims of circumstances turn out to be fine young people tomorrow.
Dr P. Anantha Krishna Bhat, the convenor/trustee of Mangala Seva Samithi Trust that runs the home is a driven man. He hopes that the community will come forward to help accommodate more needy children at the ashram. “Sponsor a child for just
Rs. 6000 (around $150) per year,” he appeals. “Help give a decent life to a child.”
Dr Bhat can be reached at 001-91-824-2496304, 011-91-9886092230 or by email at