Lending a helping hand

Lending a helping hand

Lending a helping hand

Small moves in life can lead to  big changes. Chethana Dinesh  tells you how one such gesture is shaping the life of many underprivileged children.

With a widowed mother busy trying to earn a livelihood doing any odd jobs available, all that four-year-old Sunitha could do was to spend her time on the road, playing with construction materials such as bricks and stones as toys, and eating mud when she felt like it.

Five-year-old Sunil, disabled and motherless owing to an abusive father, was abandoned by his family. He had no one to call his own, except for his loving 10-year-old brother Anil. Abandoned by their families, the homeless siblings faced the threat of being separated.

Ray of hope

The above mentioned cases are not from any work of fiction, but true stories of children who have suffered it all — poverty, abuse, neglect and deprivation. Their plights would have remained the same, or even worsened, if not for Reaching Hand, a loving home for children from the marginalised sections of society.

Today, these children, along with 42 other children from their new home called Reaching Hand, proudly wear crisp school uniforms and attend reputed schools in the city, and dare to dream of a bright future for themselves. While Richard wants to pursue MBA and become an entrepreneur, Savitha wants to become an astronaut.

Then there is Sara who wants to become a doctor, and Pavan who dreams of becoming an engineer. With dreams in their eyes and a burning desire to conquer the world, these children are so focussed on achieving their goals that most of them are ‘head boys’ and ‘head girls’ in their  schools.

“That is the idea behind Reaching Hand — to make leaders out of destitutes. We strive to see that our children do not feel like second-class citizens. Our hearts swell with pride on seeing them assuming leadership roles in schools,” says V M Samuel, the founder-president of Reaching Hand.

It all started way back in 1996 when Samuel’s daughter started supporting an NGO associated with children, and his wife expressed the desire of adopting 10 children. That was when Samuel registered Reaching Hand as a charitable trust and absorbed himself completely in philanthropic activities. Ably assisted by his family and friends, some of whom even pledged their properties to fund the projects of Reaching Hand, the organisation has come a long way.

New Home, the home for these children, took shape in 2006 on a rented premises, and as the number of occupants increased, another building in the same area was taken on rent, and now, while 24 boys stay in one home, 21 girls stay in the other. However, there’s a space crunch, and this worries Samuel.

“Our children need the stability that only a permanent home can give. A home that they can call their own; a home that helps them leave their painful past behind, one that gives wings to their dreams,” says Samuel who, along with the other trustees of Reaching Hand, is moving heaven and earth to realise this dream of building a permanent home for these children.

Moved by the pathetic plight of several destitute children, Samuel is tempted to take them in, but is holding himself back  because of the space crunch, he says. “My dream is to be able to provide tender loving care to about 500 children. This can be possible only when we have a permanent home,” he adds.

At New Home, care is taken to provide the children with a homely atmosphere. Every effort is also made to encourage them to pursue their hobbies, be it arts or sports. While most children are brilliant beatboxers, there is a Shakira among them too, whose rendition of Waka Waka can put the original singer to shame! Then there are football, tennis and throwball players too.

Professionals are hired to train them in their areas of interest. These children attend three different schools with different syllabi, based on their academic abilities. “But the keyword is empowerment,” adds Thomas Saju, secretary, who shares Samuel’s vision for Reaching Hand, while his wife Annie makes sure all the children eat properly.

Other than supporting children rescued from unfortunate living conditions, Reaching Hand strives to empower marginalised women and deprived families to lead a life of hope and dignity. The organisation even provides scholarships to students and adopts government schools. “We identify students who are needy and deserving and support them in their education by paying their tuition fee in full. Every year, we manage to support at least 60 students,” says Samuel.

Coming to Reaching Hand’s Government School Adoption Programme, every effort is made to improve the infrastructure in the government schools adopted, so that they are on par with the best of private schools, besides providing students of such schools with uniforms, books and stationery.

This is not all. Reaching Hand conducts health camps in rural areas, runs temporary preventive centres for children who are vulnerable to exploitation and violence in Bijapur and Hubli, and takes care of the educational and nutritional needs of poor families in the same towns under its Feeding Programme.

However, the priority now is to build a permanent home for the children of Reaching Hand. You can get in touch with this organisation at 9019906846, 9886180323 or www.reachinghand.org.

(Some names have been changed to protect identity).

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