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Lalitha

A FAMILY OF CHILDREN AND GRAND PARENTS

New Life Charitable Trust began its home for the aged and helpless children, in a thatched hut with just two inmates. As is the case with every social entrepreneur, there is a critical incident behind this beginning.

Lalitha, Founder Trustee, and Swamy, President, used to visit government hospitals in the Tambaram locality to help those patients who had none to turn to. From occasional visits on birthdays and others, they turned out to be weekend visits, where they spent more time with these patients, primarily senior citizens. Slowly, the patients began to look forward to their visits. 'The patients were eager to see us, because we spend time with them,' says Lalitha.

In 1991, two patients were discharged from Tambaram Sanatorium Hospital, one of whom was blind and the other was totally lame. They had no where to go and so Lalitha and Swamy decided to put them in a home. It was a time when homes did not have corpus funds or nursing facilities. Therefore, it was up to them to decide on the further course of action and so they built a small thatched hut in Eraiyoor, Swamy's native, to house them.

While all their attention were on these two members, came Manoharan, with 10 kilograms of hydrosyl! On approaching the Multi Speciality Lifeline, Dr J S Rajkumar came forward to operate Manoharan free of charge. By 1996, there were 16 members in the home, and in 1997 Lalitha and Swamy registered it as 'New Life Charitable Trust'.

As time passed by they felt the need to support children who were orphans, or lived with young widows, or were HIV positive, or mentally retarded, and also children of commercial sex workers. With the belief that basic education must not be hampered due to lack of resources they offered financial assistance to the needy children.

By 1995, there were 20 children in the New Life family. One of them is Jayalakshmi from Bangalore. Her mother had committed suicide on learning that her father had married another woman. Since then, she lived with her aunt and uncle in Bangalore who abused and harassed her. "It was my neighbor who rescued and brought me to New Life," says Jayalakshmi.

Life at 'New Life' would remind us of any usual family scene. It does not feel like a home which usually has a schedule tabled and pasted on the walls and corridors. "Members of New Life can eat when they want and the children can study when they wish. The elders too can take a walk within the campus when they want. Each child is taken care by a grandpa or a grandma. The grandparents who are diabetic give their sweets to the children who assist them in their daily routine. Such is the bond created here. Only then will they feel at home. All that they need is love and some time with their dear ones. The way they converse with their family members who visit them conversations shows how happy and loved they feel here,' says Ms Lalitha.

Counselling the children of senior citizens and mothers of the children was taking concrete shape as they increasingly realized that no child or a senior citizen can be happy living in a home-each one of them longs for a family. Therefore, homes such as these must show a plummeting trend. But, on the contrary, they are growing multifold. The trust gradually supported families to take care of their senior family members and the mothers were counseled to live with their in-laws, with the promise of support for their child's education. They have been able to successfully play the role of a 'bridge' between the needy children and the willing sponsors.

Education is not forced on the children here. Although they are advised to finish schooling till class X, children who are interested to pursue different vocations are allowed to decide. Those who declined to continue studies and showed interest in cattle rearing were also supported. (name), studying in class XII, a class topper says, 'I want to become a bank manager'. Today, New Life Charitable Trust has 60 senior citizens and 64 children. To look at their accolades, the trust was awarded the 'Sadguru Gnanananda Award for 2006' for providing medical assistance to the (name) village which has a population of 1200. Recently, it was awarded the 'Imayam Award' by Makkal Santhippu, a monthly magazine recognized by the United Nations Organisation. With more such recognition coming in, one would be intrigued to know about the future plans, which I did ask. "We have no future plans", was the instant reply from Lalitha. The trust is sustained by public donations and contribution from friends. She affirmatively said that every donor has come back to help them in some form or the other regularly. Only three fundraising programmes in the last 20 years has been organized and this stands as testimony to the aforesaid.

The trustees have been working on proposing New Life Charitable Trust as a CSR programme of KAAR Technologies, with new members on the board. For now, all their interest is to see active youngsters playing key roles in the board. Let's wish them all success!

-Shanmuga Priya
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