India has a history of having a high number of abandoned children, especially females, and this is continuously on the increase despite the government and NGOs doing their best to curtail this. TEWFI had been concerned with this crisis for some time and this is what motivated the action for the Foundation to establish and fund Uluru Children’s Home (UCH) in 2001.
Set in a tranquil environment overlooking the backwaters of the Bay of Bengal, UCH cares for a particularly vulnerable group of children from all over Tamil Nadu. Since 2003 UCH has been a home for these abandoned, destitute or orphaned children. Currently there are 34 children, 16 girls and 18 boys, between the ages of 8 and 17 years old, living at UCH.
UCH has become an integral part of the community by providing employment to local village women and men who staff the home as caretakers, cooks, cleaners and security. At UCH the children are given more than shelter, food and clothing. They are given a safe, loving and caring environment. Just as important, the children have access to health care and education, which are crucial in giving them life prospects they would otherwise undoubtedly be denied if they remained in their prior circumstances.
In particular, TEWFI has set up:
- An enhanced educational program
- Extra-curricular education involving music, sport, and dance (plans for physical education facilities at the Home are being developed).
- Special events and trips
- Various initiatives aimed at self-sufficiency.
A few stories and statistics illustrating the need and success of UCH
The first two children, siblings, came to UCH in 2003 at the ages of 5 and 6. They were referred by Childline, a child welfare agency in India. Their father had died and the children were picked up at a train station where the mother had them begging. It was determined that the mother was unable to appropriately care for them.
The second placement was a nine month old little girl. Her mother committed suicide and her father remarried and abandoned his child after the marriage.
Seven years ago, a 7-year-old came to UCH after her relatives no longer wanted to care for her. Her father was murdered and her mother abandoned her as a baby. Two sisters reside at UCH after their mother died from Tuberculosis and their father left the family home. The first boys to enter UCH were orphaned after their father was murdered and their mother committed suicide. The families of all the UCH children are impacted by distressing life events such as alcoholism, destitution, suicide and death by illness and accident.
Singing Class for UCH
A singing master has been coming weekly to UCH since 2010. The girls and boys with an interest for singing learn Carnatic Sangeet, a form of classical vocal music from South India. A few boys are also given lesson in the Mridangam, a double-sided drum. In 2009 one child took part in an music competition held in Chennai. He was awarded with second prize in Musical Instrument performance. In January 2010 some of the children were requested to perform a cultural show in front of the community leaders, parents and Teachers Association. This performance was extremely well received.
Arts and Sports at UCH
While the importance of traditional school education cannot be denied, it is important to expose children to other facets of life. Currently, the main sporting activity that the UCH children participate in, apart from the Physical education (PE) classes held at school, is the bi-weekly karate lessons which is going on its fifth year. They learn self- defense and discipline, besides being a means of exercise. Some of the children have progressed up to Black Belt level. In 2010 the children participated in a State level Karate Championship. Most of the children won prizes in different events and the girls won the team championship. The children won 5 gold, 7 silver and 17 copper medals.
The children have access to a large area of the campus set up for volleyball, badminton and cricket.
Educational Enrichment Program
Like most government schools in rural India, the quality of local schools in the kadapakkam area is very poor. Government schools are under resourced, have poor infrastructure, large teacher-student ratios, low teacher attendance and lack of equipment and teaching materials. This continues to result in high levels of poor education. To ensure the children at Uluru Children’s Home (UCH) are given a decent quality of education, a recent addition to UCH has been the development of an educational enrichment programme. This involves the employment (by TEWFI at the cost of on average of 1746 rupees per month) of local school teachers with most having 4+years of university training.
The teachers come to UCH in the evenings to conduct classes for the children. There is one teacher assigned to three to six children.This impressive ratio helps the teacher focus on the educational needs of each child. In session for 1-1/2 hours every weekday evening the children of UCH get extra help for their studies and homework, with a different subject being taught on different days. In addition, each Saturday morning a further, special three-hour tutorial class is held. Weekly and monthly report.
This helps keep closely monitor the children’s progress in the local’s schools. Each child has significantly improves in school. One exceptional example is the accomplishment of one of the girls who is in eleventh standard. Before she came to UCH she was not going to school and was a couple year behind for her age, and now she is ranked first for her class. Most of the children rank within the top ten of their standard.
Various undertakings have been started at Uluru Children’s Home (UCH) to increase its self-sufficiency capabilities.
These are primarily in the area of UCH’s daily requirements such as
Food, water and Energy.
This project was started in 2008 and its aim is towards self-sufficiency. In partnership with the Rotary Clubs of Monas (Melbourne) and Besant Nagar (Chennai), rainwater harvesting works through collecting monsoon rainwater from the roofs of the dormitories and then storing it. This project aims to improve the quality of drinking water at UCH and reduce the use of well water which has been salinized after the 2004 tsunami. This is completed and functional and UCH should be able to independently provide clean and fresh drinking water for more than 80 residents. The only issue affecting this project is when there is not adequate rainfall. The monsoon seasons will hopefully see adequate amount of water collected.
Banana and Vegetable/Herb Garden
The Banana Garden, with many varieties of bananas, was recently planted at UCH. In addition, a vegetable/herb garden is being implemented. These two endeavours will not only increase the self-sufficiency of UCH and provide the children with fresh, home-grown produce, but will also teach the children gardening skills to grow their own vegetables, and how care for the environment.
A generous donation of milking cows to UCH has been given. This has provided milk to the children’s home and has reduced significantly the amount of milk TEWFI is buying on a daily basis. Farming and agricultural education is being planned for the children to add to their already extensive educational programmes.
A extensive energy audit of UCH and the joining administration building has been implemented. This audit assessed to what extent other energy sources, such as solar, wind or biomass, would be viable and cost-effective for use at UCH. TEWFI is using solar energy in some of the buildings.
UCH has begun a program where cow dung and biodegradable waste are collected and placed into a pit along with earthworms. This compost eventually become fertilizer which is used in the gardens. In the future UCH may sell this fertilizer which would be 10 rupees per kg.
Pongal Celebration. Kolam competition
Pongal Celebration. Games and laughter.
UCH Children Dance Performance
UCH students received karate certificates and prizes.