Dear Maitri friend,
It turned out to be a different and memorable Friday, the 4th of March 2015 for hundreds of widows at Maitri's Old Age Home as their white attire was smeared in different hues when they played Holi - a Hindu festival of colours.
Ostracized by society, abandoned and rejected by their own family after the death of their husband they are forced to wear white clad saris, with no colour on their physical being. Breaking a centuries-old tradition that prohibited Hindu widows from any and everything that had to do with festivity, hundreds of them from Radha Kund and Vrindavan enjoyed the festival of colours with the Maitri family and friends.
This year 100 widow mothers joined in the celebration at Maitri Ghar and Ageing Resource Centre, feeling acknowledged by the community as women and individuals who are looked upon with dignity and respect. The event, with the presence of many well wishers brought cheer and joy, with a rainbow of colours and flowers to every widow mother present. Dancing with joy to the beat of the drums, they laughed, hugged and celebrated their being; their womanhood.
Being part of and witnessing the breaking of this ongoing taboo where merry making was out of bounds for the widows was a very satisfying and heartening experience for Maitri.
To mark the celebration Maitri also distributed a special mid day meal to all widows present, along with a sari, toothpaste, bathing soap, Rs 10 and hair oil.
Thank you for contributing to Maitri's Old Age Home and in turn enabling the women living here to celebrate a festival, breaking away from years of social stigma prevalent in society. Maitri is indeed encouragued by the positive changes seen in the widow mothers who have moved in to the old age home. This is in turn has motivated us to construct another home in a co location for 100 other widows in a village called RadhaKund, Mathura.
As we go forward, Maitri would like to further intensify our engagement with issues associated with abandoned and destitute widow mothers. We believe, together with you, we have the potential to offer sustainable services to elderly women in need.
Anjali was a resident of West Bengal. She got married at the age of 22. Her husband belonged to an affluent family so he never found reason to get a job. Anjali's husband treated her well and they had only one son together. However, he died after his first few years. Later in life Anjali's husband passed away as well and so she went to her mother's house for shelter. To her dismay she did not feel welcomed but felt she was a burden to her family. Soon, Anjali made her way to Vrindavan in search of peace and refuge. She now lives in MaitriGhar along with other widow mothers like her.
On behalf of the entire Maitri team we wish you a very happy new year! Thank you for being part of the journey thus far and playing a vital role in creating a sustainable project that benefits elderly abandoned women in need. Because of you, women have been empowered by being given dignity and respect in the sunset years of their life. It is people like you who make this life changing project a reality.
Maitri's Old Age Home has taken great shape over the last few months. With the construction of the old age home complete and a sanitation system in place, Maitri has procured beds, linens and cupboards which has enabled us to move in 40 abandoned widowed women so far. In addition, a complete white wash of the old age home has been done, water gysters installed and front lawn work is complete. Resident widow mothers are also enrolled in Maitri's nutrition programme where they receieve a daily mid-day meal consisting of lentils, vegetables, rice, with fruits thrice a week and clean drinking water to form a healthy diet. Moreover, they are provided with special food on days that they hold religious fasts. In addition, resident widow mothers are provided with basic health care check-ups every Monday and were taken to a special ENT health camp in November 2014 to address any general health problems. Maitri has also been able to distribute 110 detergents, soaps and shampoos to widow mothers along with shawls and blankets to help them brace the cold winter season.
Alka was a resident of South Dineshpur, a town in the state of Uttarakand, India. She got married at the age of 30 to Diwakar age 60 at that time. Her husband was a farmer and was very abusive towards her. A few years after their marriage, Diwakar had one house which he had sold to someone after which he abandoned Alka in Vrindavan. Alka is a mother of two sons and resorted to living with her elder son and his wife when she was deserted by her husband. How ever they treated her very badly as well and so she came to live in Vrindavan. Now, she lives Maitrighar and is overjoyed to have a place that she can call home.
Because of the tremendous support we have been receieving towards this project, a land has been purchased in a nearby village called Radakund where we intend to construct a similar old age home to shelter another 100 abandoned widow mothers. Currently, relief is being brought to desitute elderly women in the area in a temperory shelter constructed last year by Maitri.
Thank you for being part of the family of Maitri and for helping to create positive, lasting change with your contribution to our organization. Your support makes a world of a difference. Your support has made each elderly woman believe that she counts.
Dear Maitri friend,
We are most delighted to let you know that the construction of Maitri Ghar and Ageing Resource Centre is finally complete! Congratulations to each one of you on being part of this huge success!
Currently the ground floor is complete, with beds and cupboards purchased, enabling 30 widows to be moved in. The sewage line has also been put in place permitting us to shelter another 30 widows shortly. Traditional (Madhubani) Indian paintings of Lord Krishna and Radha adorn the prayer halls where widow mothers can freely pray each evening as part of their daily devotions. Those who are residing there are continued to being served a daily mid day meal along with provision of other basic necessities.
With winter round the corner, Maitri is also preparing to procure blankets, comforters, sweaters, shawls and other essentials to help widow mothers in Vrindavan brace the biting cold season.
In the midst of this success, we look back and see how far we have come, the gaps we have filled, the obstacles we have crossed and how the effects that had been felt in the past have influenced where we are today. We wanted to share a part of this journey with you that you may know how big of an achievement you are part of.
Our project in Vrindavan started in July 2010 with a promising note. We aspired to restore dignity and respect to as many abandoned and destitute widow mothers through the provision of food and basic necessities. Later in May 2011, Maitri signed an agreement to maintain a Government Old Age Home in Vrindavan. For a time, the programme worked well and we were able to provide services to the widows how ever, none of the funding came through from the State Government as promised. Unable to meet the needs of the women living at the Home due to lack of resources, we were left with no choice but to let go of our services at the Government home in July 2013. Discouraged by this experience, Maitri transitioned to independently providing services to other abandoned and destitute widows across Vrindavan. This wasn’t easy.
In July 2012 Maitri was featured on "Satyamev Jayate," a popular TV show in India and was generously funded by viewers and The Reliance Foundation for our work with abandoned widows. This opportunity enabled Maitri to buy land to construct our own “Maitri Ghar and Ageing Resource Centre” in Vrindavan.
Till date Maitri has not been paid by the State Government for the tenure we served at the Government Old Age Home however today we chose to focus on the fact that we have been able to build our own home and that too in a record time of one year. Maitri Ghar is not only going to give abandoned widows a home but also provide them with a loving environment where they can live together and grow.
Adequate space has been catered to incorporate the most unique feature of our home, an Ageing Resource Centre. On completion, this edifice will be one of a kind in the country addressing all aspects of ageing. One of the facilities of the Ageing Resource Centre will be an empowerment project for resident widows, which will include making of incense sticks, beads and organic soaps. Further to this, the Centre will also carry out research and policy analysis on the aged and related issues. Finally, we are also happy to announce that Maitri is in the process of partnering with two Hospitals and a University to provide training for old age care. Campus enrollment will commence in due course.
Today we want you to know that had we never gone through the setback with the Governement Old Age Home in the past we would have probably not envisioned building something of our own. Today, we want to thank you for extending a helping hand in making this big dream a reality. We are pleased to have taken this initiative with you and look forward to your continued support to sustain the achievement you are so largely a part of.
It gives us immense pleasure to inform you that the construction of Maitri Ghar and Old Age Home is almost nearing completion.
Since June 2014, work as progressed immensely with an aim of completing the construction at our earliest so that we can soon shelter 100 abandoned widow mothers. Currently the tiling wok of the second floor is in progress while the painting of the inner walls is taking shape beautifully. Furthermore the construction of the front porch and installation of water tanks and electric wiring is complete. Under progress is the sanitary work and plumbing related work along with the mosquito and fly proofing for all windows and doors.
Maitri would like to thank you for your relentless support in helping us come this far to realize a vision born out a burden for the plight of abandoned and destitute widows in Vrindavan. Without your contribution this dream would not soon become a reality.
As we move towards accomplishing our target in proving a permanent shelter for 100 such widow mothers may we invite you to support us on Global Giving’s Bonus day to have your donations matched by 50% starting 16th Jul y 2014 at 9am EDT to 11:59pm EST. Your support on GlobalGiving’s Bonus day would help us procure the remaining essentials needed to make Maitri Ghar a Home so that we can move in 100 widow mothers next month. Find inspiration to bring change to their lives in this literary piece put together on behalf of the Widows of Vrindavan.
“We are the Widows of Vrindavan. Born into poor circumstances, we were married at very young ages. Oftentimes our parents did not have the financial means to care for us. Some of us had good marriages of mutual respect and love; many have faced physical and emotional abuse, loveless relationships, and the effects of substance abuse. We have had to work hard throughout our lives to care for our children, our husbands, our homes, and even our parents. Many times these efforts went unnoticed and we received very little in return.
Our husbands, in various circumstances, have passed on and we have been alone for many decades, attempting to provide for our families and arrange our children’s marriages. We are left at the mercy of our children and community. We have encountered illness, tragedy, conflict, and death and we would like to spend our remaining days with our families and loved ones. Sometimes this is not possible and our children do not have the means to provide for us in our old age. Sometimes our children do not want us; they have abused us, withheld food from us, threatened our lives, and forced us to leave our homes in search of shelter, food, and security. Society looks down upon us and denies us the respect that we should be afforded after a lifetime of sweat and tears.
We have come to Vrindavan to find respite and an opportunity to live the remainder of our lives in religious devotion and peace. The way has not been easy. As frail, older women, we have had to beg on the streets for food, even when it is difficult for us to walk. For Bhajans, we are given a single meal and a few rupees. What little money we are able to secure is never enough to meet even our basic needs. We ask for very little and we are grateful for any assistance in the way of food and shelter. It is our greatest wish to complete our lives with dignity and hope. We are the Widows of Vrindavan. “
The last three months have precipitated much work on Maitri Ghar. The ground floor is close to completion with completed flooring and electrical and plumbing. The clinic and kitchen are coming along on schedule and are recognizable as such. Here are some of the changes since the last report:
• Roof of the second floor has been cast.
• Floor tiling of ground floor and first floor completed and second floor is completed.
• Brick work up to second floor is completed.
• Window panes and mosquiting proofing has been completed and second floor is in progress.
• Bathroom fitting and plumbing work continues to progress.
• Electrical wiring of ground floor and first floor is completely done.
• Electrical wiring for second floor is in progress
Sharmati married at 16 years old. Although her husband was a kind person, his mother disliked Sharmati and constantly abused and humiliated her. Sharmati did not have any children, and because of this, endured more abuse. About 25 years after their marriage, her husband passed away due to illness. After losing her husband, Sharmati was alone with no support. With no one to turn to, Sharmati started spending her time in service at a local temple and eventually decided to come to Radhakund. She has now lived in Radhakund for roughly 10 years, where she has to beg for a living and lives in a small rented hovel. Sharmati believes that she was unable to bear children because of past karma, and that by praying to Krishna in Radhakund, she will be reborn with a better fate in her next life.
Maitri looks forward to permanently housing 100 destitute elderly widow mothers like Sharmatti at Maitri Ghar soon. The residential facility is built with the purpose of contributing to the overall well being of each widow taken in. Improving the quality of these widow mothers is an important aspect of the project. Furthermore, it will ensure a comfortable and communal living environment. While giving these widow mothers a safe place to stay Maitri foresees empowering them through skill building programmes to ensure that they no longer resort to begging to survive. Further to this we hope to raise remaining funds to purchase 100 beds, beddings and cupboards to be able to move the widow mothers at our earliest.
Since 2010, Maitri has engaged with more than 500 Widow Mothers living in Vrindavan and has committed to providing Nutrition, Health Care, Education on their Rights, and access to Citizenship Rights. Widow Mothers enrolled with Maitri’s Nutrition program receive a free, daily, mid-day meal. Furthermore, they are provided with clean drinking water and made aware of the benefits of hygienic living and encouraged to live so. Supplements are provided to address the specific geriatric needs of the Widows and they are provided with basic Health Care twice a week and facilitated with specialized medical checks periodically.
It is a privilege for Maitri to receive your support through ongoing generous contributions that we may continue to be able to restore dignity and respect to abandoned, destitute and elderly women in India. Also, thank you to GlobalGiving for their continued support in our endeavors to make a difference.
" Never Doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; Indeed it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Meed
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