Guild of Service: A home away from home By debanjoli nandi

Chennai, December 12: Arthi’s life is just like any other teenager’s- maybe hers is just a little more disciplined. She gets up at 4 o’ clock in the morning. Her yoga class starts exactly at 7:20 a.m. This yoga class is followed by prayer and then subsequently by breakfast. Generally the school, which shares the same boundary wall with the home she stays in, starts at 9 a.m. but if there is any special class, it starts at 8 o’clock. Almost every day, one or the other teacher holds a special class at the scheduled time.

A still photo of Arthi

Classes generally closes at 5 o’clock in the evening and then many a students like Arthi assemble on the first floor of the residential building(Seva Samajam Girl’s Home) for tuition classes that are held from 6p.m. to 8 p.m. Their entire day comes to an end with a nutritious dinner exactly at 8:00 p.m.

One must be thinking this piece is about the tough regime followed by the inmates of a home located somewhere in this vast world. But,no. This is not just a home, it is something beyond that. It is more of a home away from home to hundreds of Arthis staying there.

Arthi’s father’s premature death left her mother, who works as a domestic help, with no choice but to send her only child to Kelly, a home run by the Government. Arthi spent 15 long years of her life at Kelly and then at the age of 15, she left the organization as it had no provision of higher education. She was very determined and always wanted to continue with her education.

Now Arthi never regrets taking that step that day. Perhaps, that was the wisest move she could have ever made.

With time, she has realized this is not only a place which provides her with nutritious and hygienic food but also a place which will help realize her dreams one day.

Not just that, this is also the place that has made her forget all the sorrows in her life. Now she aspires to become an accountancy teacher.

Guild of Service has been a haven for the underprivileged over the years. Located in the heart of the city, this 103-year-old organization has been a doing a yeoman service since its inception.

With time, it has made its presence felt all over the country. The organization not only has 21 units across Chennai but also has branches in the other metropolitan cities such as Kolkata, Delhi, Bihar and Orissa.

According to Saraswathi Gopalakrishnan,who is one of the vice-chairpersons of the Guild of Service, the main focus of the organization is on education and for this, the organization runs three schools namely Mary Clubwala, Jadhan Girls’ High School.

However, the organization also facilitates skill development by offering beautician courses, apart from courses on jewelry making and embroidery . On the completion of the beautician course, each student is given a beauty kit. Just not that, they are also placed in various beauty salons.

The Pillars of Guild of Service

However, it is not that imparting education to the needy is their only objective. They also run special programmes like Bala Bihas for the mentally and the differently-able children. Those abandoned differently-able children are also given basic toilet training. Even after they leave the institute, the training continues and they are assigned jobs, according to their capability.

The organization also trains those children’s parents on how to look after a child. At present, 250 children are taken care of by the organization. Their one branch at Annanagar is fully dedicated to children who either were born without any limbs or lost their body parts in accidents. They are not only taken care of with utmost devotion but also given physio-therapy.

It is not just the children in the specified branches are looked after by the 103-year-old organization. Pre-school programmes are run in the slum areas. From each slum there are 30-35 children enrolled for their programmes and there are 13 pre-school buildings in total.

Although no financial assistance is received from the government, the organization does not have a second thought over providing the children with sufficient amount of nutritious food.

An outsider might think that those inmates are deprived of most of the happiness in life but a closer look reveals that it is just otherwise. Who says they are deprived? The organization leaves no stone unturned to provide these children with all the happiness they deserve. The members of the organization are no less than their parental figures.

Maybe this is why hundreds of these Athiras never want to go back home. Their lives are filled with all the happiness in the world. They are full of the joys of spring in their own, small world.

No expectations, no demand. Their only desire is to make a mark in this vast world and prove no adversity can stop one from reach one’s goal, if one has one’s priorities set.

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