School life in Pondicherry

Most of our children go to the same school, which is around the corner from the orphanage. In India everyone wears a uniform to school. They do this so everyone looks alike and you can’t see whether someone is poor or rich. This way they hope to prevent discrimination. When the children come back from school they get help doing their homework.

Strong Sedan

Sedan (9 years) is a real athlete – he can move his body in the strangest positions. He also loves climbing trees or on top of walls. He is really intrigued by magic. Once a magician came to the children’s home and of all the kids, Sedan was most fascinated. He still talks about it and would love to learn as many magical tricks as possible. Nothing is known about Sedan’s parents except their names. Sedan used to live with family, but they were very poor and could not afford bringing up an extra child. Sedan has been living with us for a year now and is really thriving.

Ashok with Antony

Life was not easy for Ashok before he came here. Nothing is known about his parents, and Ashok and his little brother Satish were wandering around the streets. We were notified about this and gave them shelter. At first it was a bit strange for the brothers and they were somewhat withdrawn, but now they have made many friends and are becoming more and more open.

Antony (12 years) is one of Ashok’s new friends. He came to live with us only six months ago. In the beginning he was very shy and kept in the background just like Ashok. He is very modest and always listens well. When you get to know Antony a little better, you will notice that he can be very talkative and cheerful too. He loves playing games, so when the playroom opens, Antony is first in line to go inside. He is the very best at memory.

Sunil is teething

Contrary to his brother Raghul, Sunil’s (8 years) personality is more quiet, calm and modest. He stays in the background, but he is a very sweet boy. He is close to his brother, they always support each other. School is difficult for him, especially reading, but if you take time to help him, he really tries very hard. He wants to do good and wants to hear you say it. When he has read something, he looks at you with hopeful eyes and with a touching look to see if he has done well.

Hari together with his younger brother

Hari (12 years) has already been living with us for six years together with his younger brother. His father was drunk regularly and this often resulted in homely abuse. Their mother didn’t see any other way out than to commit suicide. The father couldn’t take care of his children and therefore the brothers live in Isai Ma(i)yam. Hari has become a very independent boy who can take good care of himself. He is a very smart boy with many talents. He plays two music instruments, mridangan (an Indian percussion instrument) and drumpad. He is also good at dancing, and sometimes he, Mani and Akash like to dance at performances.

Jayabarathi practicing dancing steps

Jayabarathi (9 years) is always enthusiastic and happy. Her best friend is Niranjini and together they have great fun. Most of all they love to dance together, practicing dancing steps they just learned in class. Jayabarathi is a very innocent and sweet girl, she likes to come to you to play or cuddle. Concentrating is difficult for her, especially when doing homework. She is easily distracted and would rather use her time to dance or play. It is especially difficult for her at school, because like her little brother Jayaguru she hasn’t been to school for a while. Jayabarathi and Jayaguru’s mother ran away with another man and their father placed his children with their grandmother. They were well looked after, but hardly went to school for eight months. Since they live with us their grandmother comes to visit often and their father also visits from time to time.

Siva Sankari a cheerful girl

Siva Sankari (9 years) has nine sisters, she herself is the youngest in the family. She lives with us together with her sisters Raji and Arasakumari. In India a daughter can be a big financial burden for parents, because they have to pay a marriage dowry for her when she gets married. So therefore ten daughters is not desirable. The girl’s mother has died and their father doesn’t support his daughters. One of her sisters has already passed away, four sisters are married, two sisters have a job. Raji, Arasakumari and Siva Sankari are still at school and living with us. The elder sisters can hardly support themselves and so cannot take care of their younger sisters. All three girls are very cheerful. Raji (17 years) is very adult and at the same time very social. Arasakumari (11 years) can be a little impatient, but she is very affectionate and laughs a lot. Siva Sankari is a happy, cheerful girl who loves to cuddle and play.

The sisters Sharmila and Usha

Usha (9 years) is a lively lady, she can defend herself well. Sometimes this can make her a bit bossy, but it also makes her energetic and outgoing. Usha is not only lively, but also has a soft side and so she loves to cuddle. Her energetic character shows in her dancing, through which she can lose some of her energy. Usha has an elder sister, Sharmila (11 years), who also lives with us. Sharmila is a happy and easy girl who is loved by everyone. She does well at school and always does her homework. In character the sisters don’t look very much alike, but they care a lot about each other. Their father left with another woman and their mother can’t earn enough money by herself for the family. The sisters still go home sometimes in the weekend or during holidays.

The three sisters Karthika, Naveena and Niranjini

Karthika (12 years) is a real dear, she wouldn’t even hurt a fly. She lives with us and her elder and younger sister. The sisters take good care of each other, at night they like to sleep close to each other. Karthika is a quiet girl, but always happy. She gets along well with the other girls who live with us, especially Sharmila who is a good friend.

Naveena (14 years) is good friends with other girls of her age (Saranya, Gandhimathy, Raji and Ranjeetha). She would love to stay with her friends the whole day. Studying isn’t that important to her, contrary to dancing which she really likes.

Everywhere you go you see Niranjini (8 years), she a very cheerful girl and likes to be in the picture. She prefers playing and dancing the whole day with the other girls. She is active and happy and her enthusiasm is contagious. Her best friend is Jayabarathi, and together they have lots of fun. They love to dance together and practice the steps they were taught.

The preparation of our dinner

We have employed four people to prepare the food for the children each day. In India it is common to eat hot in the morning, they usually start the day with a plate of rice. Often rice is eaten in the evening too. Additionally they also often eat idly, dosa and chapati.

Manimegalai has flourished since she came here

Manimegalai (10 years) is an independent girl who knows what she wants. She is very smart en gets good grades at school. While playing you can see how smart she is. If tactics are used, she figures it out pretty quickly and she often wins. Sometimes she wants to make someone else happy and consciously lets the other win. Manimegalai is not just smart, but she’s also a good dancer and often joins performances with Gayathri. Manimegalai has flourished since she came here, but in the beginning she cried a lot and could react strongly to small things. She was very protective of her elder brother Mani, if something happened to him she would cry as well. It hasn’t been easy for Mani and Manimegalai, as their father left with another woman. Their mother had never finished school and couldn’t earn enough money. Mani had to work from the age of four to help the family, he had to wash cars. The neighbor advised the family to let the children live in a shelter and since then they have been living with us. They still have contact with their mother and are always very glad to see her when she visits.

Jeevanandham far more stable

Jeevanandham (8 years) is a playful and naughty boy. He does funny things and can sometimes make problems for himself. Sometimes it’s very difficult to correct him. His naughty and sometimes rebellious behavior can be explained because of the traumatic youth he has had. Jevanandham never knew his father and his mother couldn’t care for him alone. She often locked her son in a dark room the whole day while she went to work. When he was released from this room his behavior was very strange and according to his mother he was unmanageable. Finally, he was admitted to the psychiatric department in the hospital. It was clear that the situation at home was unbearable, so when he was released from hospital, he came to stay with us. Since then his behavior has improved and he is far more stable. Yet he is really traumatized and sometimes this still shows in his wanton behavior.

Satish becoming less insecure

Satish is a very sweet, but also very vulnerable boy. He would rather be alone with you so he can get all your attention. During these moments he thrives and loves to cuddle. When the big boys are around, he doesn’t dare to do this and tries to be tough. Satish is very close to his brother Ashok. Not much is known about the parents of these boys; they were wandering around the streets together. A shop owner notified us and we took them into the group. This safe environment with lots of stability and regularity is very good for the boys. Satish dares to be more open and slowly he is becoming less insecure about himself.

The girlfriends Ranjeetha and Saranya

Ranjeetha (14 years) is a very serious and inquisitive girl. She loves learning and will keep questioning you during homework period. She loves learning English and reading English books. She has a friendly character and is very adult for her age. She is conscious of the fact that if she studies hard, she has better chances at a stable job later on. Therefore she studies very hard and is very disciplined. She also loves to draw and together with Gnahimathy she plays the violin. Sometimes Ranjeetha can feel lonesome, because both her parents have died and nobody ever comes to visit her at the orphanage. Luckily she says she feels at home with us and is good friends with Gandhimathy, Saranya, Raji and Naveena.

Saranya (14 years) is almost the opposite of Ranjeetha, but the girls like each other’s company. Saranya likes being the centre of attention, she is very extroverted. She has a very social character and easily makes contact with other people. When Saranya is there, it is always nice and there is always something happening. She can draw all the attention to herself and therefore can be a bit dominant. She loves dancing and talking with her friends. She isn’t very serious and would rather take her time doing the fun things in life rather than learning at school.

Govindsamy in the sea

In the summer the children enjoy going to the beach. Pondicherry is on the coast, so the beach isn’t far away. In this picture you can see Govindasamy (13 years), and together with his two sisters Gayathri and Pauli they live with us. Govindsamy is a very social boy, he easily makes friends and always creates a good ambiance quickly. He bonds quickly to people whom he cares for. Sometimes this can make him emotional when these people get angry at him or disappoint him. But he always gets a grip on himself quickly and then again he is the pleasant, social Govindsamy. Besides social he is also disciplined and talented. He is good at drawing and dancing and not too long ago he has started playing the violin. His parents are divorced and his father is not around any more. The mother was often ill, so there was nobody to take good care of the children. Contrary to his sisters Govindsamy seemed to have no problem moving to Isai Ma(i)yam and from the beginning he was very active and happy. Meanwhile his sisters have adjusted to the new situation too and have flourished completely.

The children’s home in Pondicherry

This is where our children live. The left building is for the boys and the right building is for the girls. They sleep separately, but they eat together. This happens in the central hall in the girl’s building.

Jerolin en Jayramanan

Brother Jayaraman and sister Jerolin

Jayaraman (17 years) and Jerolin (6 years) are two hands on one belly. Jayaraman is very caring for his little sister and Jerolin loves to be with her big brother. In 2011 Jayaraman and Jerolin’s mother committed suicide. The father was away working a lot and didn’t have much time to take care of the young Jerolin. Jayaraman took it upon himself to take care of his sister, but soon his grades started dropping. In Isai Ma(i)yam Jayaraman is also taking good care of Jerolin, he is a helpful boy who also takes on other tasks. But now he has much more time to concentrate on school. Lately Jerolin has started going to school and she is very intelligent for her age. She understands things quickly, she is very inquisitive, and loves learning new things. At her young age she already has many talents, and can dance and sing well. And just like other six year old children she loves playing. She fantasizes a lot and can keep herself busy, but she also loves to involve other girls in her playing. Brother and sister still have good contact with their father who comes to visit his children regularly.