Eraiyur-based New Life Charitable Trust, a home for aged and children, needs a new guardian

A. Anthony Swami’s New Life Charitable Trust is at cross roads. The home for aged and orphans, which was built with hard work and passion, needs a second generation of leaders to sustain it.

The non-governmental secular home, based in Eraiyur, a small village in Kanchipuram, 50kms from Chennai cares for 70 senior citizens, 20 children and 50 cattle. The Trust, besides providing shelter, clothes, food, medical assistance, education to children, senior citizens, also maintains a Goshala for protecting cows.

As a youngster, Swami’s weekends were spent on taking care of patients in government hospitals who did not have a family. He had lost his mother at an early age and studied in boarding school so had to struggle for his sustenance and education. He could relate to the abandonment and loneliness.

The hospital wanted to discharge two abandoned handicapped men. The brother’s family who was taking care of the blind man did not want to take him home, reminisced 59-year-old Lalitha, she retired from Accountant General’s office.

Lalitha’s family belonged to Tamil Brahmin community while their neighbour Swami was an ardent Catholic. She was smitten by his simplicity and caring for others. Though ten years his junior, she married him in 1980.

In 1990, during one of the couple’s visit to the hospital the helplessness plight of these men, one who had lost eye sight and another man’s right leg was amputated had lost his wife and son, nudged Swami to decide.

Therefore they set up a tiny thatched hut in Swami’s ancestral property and employed a cook to take care of them. Both their families had supported their decision on marriage despite their diverse background but not on this. This step involved a big burden and huge financially risk in taking care of homeless people,” she said. Both of them were employed in the government.

The initial years were difficult, “We have faced situations of not having rice or dal to cook the next day’s meal but there has not been a single day when our inmates have gone without food,” he said. Some acquaintance or unknown people have sent the food requirements in times of need. All the funds and donations received has been through ’word of mouth’, said his wife.
“It is only God’s blessings,” said Swami. The couple lived in Tambaram, 24 kms from the village, they will take the bus to visit their ashram in weekends.

The Trust got a financial support with some Non Resident Indians in Dubai have contributed Rs 12.5 Lakh for construction of house for New Life through blood donation in Dubai. People in Chennai and Indians living in Doha and Singapore have donated the other half for completion of the New Life Home and maintaining day to day expenses. The total amount of foreign donations was not disclosed by the couple.

Travelling was taking a toll on Swami’s health and therefore he quit his job in Madras State Electricity Board (now Tamil Nadu Electricity Board) to focus on the growing number of senior citizens and children in the home. TNEB paid Rs 10 lakh to him as gratuity and pension for his years of experience. He partially spent the money on the home and most of it in buying land. The ashram was registered as New Life Charitable Trust in 1996.

Most elders in the home remain silent when asked about their family and children. The silence tells the sense of abandonment. “We are so lucky to live here if it was n’t for this home it is difficult to get a place to stay,” said 76-year-old Padmavati.

If charity organizations are run in a transparent manner, then receiving monetary help is not difficult, said Lailtha. The Trust has been filing of financial accounts annually with the Home Ministry.

Receiving monetary support is not the most pressing problem the home faces but who will continue to run this institution, said his partner of 36-years. The childless ageing couple find it difficult to motivate their reluctant nephews or nieces to take up this initiative as service.

“We find youngsters willing to part with their money for charity easily but it is difficult to find people to come and work in villages like this,” said Lalitha. There are few options available – to give up the home to the government or merger it with bigger private charity or just shut it down.
However, 69-year-old Swami, who has diabetes and high blood pressure states and is positive. “I have been praying about this and sure God will not allow this home to be run by the government,” he said.
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