Some people think children’s homes are outmoded – and that children should be fostered and adopted, which, while being a good idea – requires huge resources to be effective and well – monitored. In India – the scale of the problem outweighs the resources and so children’s homes are still common throughout.
There are homes and homes in India – some resemble Dickensian poor houses – some do just enough – we try and do something different. We are about building homes not institutions. We keep our homes small (not more than thirty children usually), with a high staff to child ratio in the region 1 adult to five children – (unheard of in India) – and we like to think of them as big families.
We have located all of our homes in small towns or villages near to where the children come from so that they remain closely tied to any existing family and relatives, rather than have one large central home. We know it’s important for the children to know where they come from and perhaps where they will return to in due course.
The truth is our children come from low caste backgrounds and many struggle with their education which, though we prioritise, we are realistic about. Hence, our expectations are pragmatic – we hope some will go through college and even university – but we know many will need other kinds of training in order to ensure they will get jobs in the future.
We are committed to ensuring that our children make it in life – hopefully breaking the cycle of poverty from which they come, by being more than just a labourer in the field – so unlike other children’s homes there is no age at which they have to leave. It’s their home after all and we will help them all the way, and maybe one day they will work for us.
The key to our successful and rapid expansion is that we have found great couples to lead the homes. The leaders are people known and respected in their communities and have come forward to run homes because they want to help. We have regular meetings and discuss the many issues that come up when running large families and together we have worked through a number of issues, out of which we have established a code of practice, a set of core beliefs and the odd policy. The formula might be simple – but the outcome is full of day to day issues. We have learned and are learning a great deal about how to do the best we can for our children.
Our core belief is that kids should be kids for as long as possible – and while school and extra tuition are a necessary part of growing up – so are games and fun – music and dancing. To that end, we run our own inter – home dance competitions and events to encourage a little healthy competition as well as an annual get together which sees all of our children we help in the district come together for our Fun Day.
A recent visitor asked if we ever had any problems in the homes – as all he had witnessed in his tour of the district was laughter and happiness – “ I see all the poverty in the villages then come to these little paradises,” he said. That was music to my ears – and while it’s far from perfect – we are doing the best we can.