Unsung Heroes

Yentha Heroes are not necessarily celebrities. Our hero is a person who brings a smile to our lives or who makes a difference in our neighbourhood. Suggest a hero and Yentha will do the rest. Trust us. Do you know anybody like this? Or a story waiting to be told?
   
 
A Branch to Perch On

Imagine this - a nondescript house in a rather picturesque setting on the outskirts of the city. It is a Saturday afternoon and inside, you find your average married couple and hear the babble of many  children’s voices. You think, “‘Hmm... these people must be really popular. Sounds like all the kids in the neighbourhood are in there.’” But guess what? Anil and Roja are not your average couple and they are new to the area. The many voices that you heard are those of their wards, around 17 of them. Anil and Roja are the caretakers of the children of Chilla-, “a roosting place for the children of sex workers."

 

Roja, a lady in her late thirties, greets us and sets about explaining the origins of Chilla.


“I was working as a counsellor for FIRM (Foundation for Integrated Research in Mental Health), which was an organisation of medical doctors. It was FIRM which provided the first forum in February 1999 for sex workers to come out and speak in public. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, government officials, poets and activists listened to some 350 workers’ stories of misery and at the end of the meeting about 10 groups were formed for the benefit of sex workers. These included groups providing legal aid, medical treatment,  education, etc.

 

A need assessment conducted, found that there were as many as 187 of their children in Trivandrum alone who required help. These children were categorised into those whose mothers had homes of their own, those who could stay with relatives and so on. In the end, 17 children were found with no place to go. They were eventually put in shelter homes and other similar centres but often they ran away or were thrown out because of the stigma associated with their mothers.”

 

TCS volunteers with the inmates

 

Chilla began in 2000 and cares for these children, looking after their basic necessities and providing shelter, education, food and most importantly, love. What makes Chilla different is that no attempt is made either to separate them from their mothers or to suppress the children’s identity. They are taught to accept their roots and rise in spite of them.  “We are very proud of our children. This year, three of them have passed SSLC with 70% marks and another has got a scholarship for football in the Sports School,” says a beaming Roja.

 

 

How do they help the children learn? “The new government syllabus is really good. All it requires is a little attention on our part,” explains Roja. “Also, we have volunteers from TCS coming once every week for past few years. The difference this has made is  incredible!”

What about funds? “We have a group of friends and regular donors who helped us buy this land. Chilla, which once had its office at Poojappura, has now shifted to Mundakkal, Karakulam. To raise funds to buy this land, they conducted programs like Cycling With A Mission and Changathikuri, the details of which may be found on their blog, http://indiachilla.blogspot.com.   Some of the prominent people associated with Chilla include architect G Shankar of Habitat Group, Soorya Krishnamoorthy and Kanai Kunhiraman. 

 

 

Ask Anil what his hopes and dreams for Chilla’s future are and he replies grinning, “Well first of all, I want to build a tree house on that mango tree so that we can get a clear view of the distant hills.”

Anil has also initiated a proposal to start a company employing sex workers as a way of rehabilitating them into mainstream society. The company will manufacture products like hand-bags, mats, etc. made of eco-friendly materials. “They will be of good excellent quality like the kind you get in Lifestyle stores,” promises Anil.

 

 

However, for the now, they are but distant dreams. Chilla’s top priority right now is trying to collecting the remaining 2 lakh rupees it needs, to buy and register its new premises with the government. To donate or know more, Anil may be contacted at 938 722 4468.

Every child  deserves a chance at a bright future irrespective of his/her background. After all, it’s not where we come from but who we choose to be that determines who we are.

 

- Aparna Unni

 

 

 

 
Posted By : Yentha, On Jun 14, 2011 09:11:25 PM
 
 
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Its nice to see organizations like this.... who concentrate on their cause more than marketing... with a vision .. for a good cause.... india may not be shining... but then.. its not devoid of sunshine....
Subru, on Jun 17, 2011 01:46:11 AM
 
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