Anyone can have a child and call themselves a “parent”. But a real parent is someone who puts that child above their own selfish needs and wants.
An innocent one month old baby boy was discarded by his parents in Adambakkam, Chennai. The story goes that a scan taken during the antenatal period revealed that the baby had defective abdominal walls (a type of congenital defect that allows the stomach, the intestines, or other organs to protrude through an unusual opening that forms on the abdomen), cystic lesions, and a deflected urinary bladder. Had they known, the parents say, they would not have carried the baby to full term. But the hospital says that the parents were aware of their child’s condition. The boy’s birth revealed new anomalies such as the absence of a lower left limb, absence of the left kidney, and a rigid scrotum. In shock, the parents abandoned him at the hospital despite receiving counselling. The mother having refused to feed her son even once! This baby needs surgery that requires his parents’ consent but they refuse to give it.
The hospital authorities frantically searched for a home but no one was willing to accept the child. Hearing about our work with abandoned children, they approached us and we could not say no. The child is now part of the Sri Arunodayam family. While still at the hospital, two of our nurses visited him each day and underwent a special training to be able to take care of him when he got home. He does not have intellectual disabilities but has very severe physical anomalies that are endangering his life.
On the 25th of February we held his naming ceremony. We searched for a name that would embody the story of his life. And we chose “Sabari” (a tributary of the river Godavari) because, like a river, love too cuts a new path whenever it meets with an obstacle. And this pretty much sums up Sabari’s one-month existence here on earth. Considered an obstacle and discarded by the ones who bore him, Sabari’s path led him to a new family that loves and embraces him as their own!
Vijay was just two years old when he joined our Sri Arunodayam family in March 2007. He was abandoned in a dilapidated well at Tiruvannamalai District when he was just two days old! The Social Welfare Department at Tiruvannamalai transferred Vijay to an adoption agency but not before publishing his picture in the local newspapers to trace his parents. Vijay was sent to a home but they refused to take him as he is intellectually disabled. Thus began his journey to Sri Arunodayam where he was welcomed and nurtured over the years.
Vijay also had physical problems. He had Right Hemiparesis (weakness of an entire side of his body) and needed assistance while eating. With regular physiotherapy, he is back to normal today and attends special education classes.
It is difficult to comprehend how families could abandon their vulnerable children as the effects of rejection is something these children live with all their lives. Vijay is one of the lucky few who made it to our home where he was embraced and nurtured by ever attentive staff. Today, he seems to have overcome his behavioural issues through timely psychiatric care, medication and a nutritious diet. Having been put through a rehabilitation program, Vijay is now quite articulate and smart. He can handle most tasks without much difficulty and shows signs of becoming a good tailor. He makes attractive shopping bags, which are quickly sold out. We are incredibly proud of Vijay who continues to learn new things each day at tailoring class.
Nithya was 14 years old when she came to us in February 2017 through the Child Welfare Committee of Coimbatore. She had been surrendered to an orphanage after her birth, post her mother’s untimely death. Her father was unable to care for her as she was diagnosed with a mild form of intellectual disability.
Nithya had a bit of trouble adjusting to her new environment at Sri Arunodayam. She was already of age to understand what was happening to her. She craved attention and sought it in strange ways. Too old to study and too young to work, Nithya was ideally suited for Prayatna, our in-house vocational training center.
Prayatna offered Nithya many channels to develop her creativity. As she focussed her energies on tasks that she liked and began to excel at, her penchant for troublemaking reduced. Nithya has blossomed into a fine young lady; responsible, reliable and capable of taking care of herself and the other young ones in her care. She has applied herself and become proficient in knitting, stitching, and weaving lovely wire baskets.
In the three years that Sri Arunodayam became her home, Nithya developed a new attitude. She knows she is loved and that this is her family. She has responded by evolving into a housemother of sorts, helping our caregivers feed and care for younger children at the home. She has other talents too, fancying sports, games and dancing. It’s true that the more we love our children, the more they learn to love others. This, pretty much sums up Nithya’s story as she grows up learning to love herself and others, making her own mark in the world today.
This is Vaishnavi. She is a new entrant and just a little over 3 years old. Born to a 54 year old woman found to be suffering with mental health issues, Vaishnavi was rescued in early January this year through India’s ChildLine services. She had been kept under lock and key since birth. Vaishnavi was transferred to the Egmore Baby Hospital in Chennai, India for medical treatment where she was diagnosed with severe malnutrition, weighing a mere 4 kilos. After treatment, she was sent to our home via a Child Welfare Committee order on January 15, 2020.
When admitted, Vaishnavi was still a little weak and cried a lot. She couldn’t sit up. We put her on a nutritious diet which has significantly improved her health. It is said that “a healthy child is a happy child” and we found that to be absolutely true! Vaishnavi’s temperament changed for the better, she became mobile and she settled in quite happily in her new environment. As you can see, she insists on eating her food by herself and actually smiles a lot now. Vaishnavi has been placed under our Individualized Education Program (IEP) where she receives the undivided attention of a special educator.
This been an exceptionally difficult time for children with disabilities but by the grace of God and your continued support we are able to keep the children in good health and spirits. Thank you for supporting our cause.
“I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.” (Jana Stanfield)
So true, especially in these times! When we commenced this New Year, we never anticipated a crisis like the COVID-19. Yet, it is precisely in such trials that we can best demonstrate faith and goodwill.
COVID-19 has revealed a lot about us as people, the good and the shadow side. We now know that we are vulnerable and dependent and need each other’s support. We’ve learnt that isolation is difficult for most people, that we must constantly work at connecting better with others and developing a better sense of neighbourliness by pushing the boundaries on who we include as our neighbours. We also know that sharing can be hard but is right. Eventually, much will return to normal but it will be a “new normal” and it is up to us to ensure that it is a better normal – more just and compassionate, more ethical and responsible, more hopeful and caring!
We hope and pray, dear friend, that you and your loved ones are well. Please stay home and stay safe!
It has been an exceptionally difficult time for persons with disabilities but by the grace of God and your continued support we have been able to keep the children in good health. We had to temporarily close special education and vocational center activities but the other therapies continue. We continue to take every precaution to keep them safe – regular hand and facility sanitization, wearing our masks and practicing social distancing as best we can. We are amazed at the new understanding our children demonstrate. They sense the change and are cooperative and understanding, caring for one another. We are also very grateful for the courage and self-giving of our healthcare workers and staff who try to make life better for the children.
In the end, we each must do our part, however small. Our world needs all the good that we can do!
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