by Shazia Khan
In 1970, a revenue officer Abdul Khalik Tak was conducting an official survey in many parts of the state when he observed many orphans and widows living in miserable conditions. Moved by their pain Tak decided to do something. That decision lead to the foundation of Yateem Trust, the first orphanage in the Valley in 1972.
“Starting an orphanage in the 70’s was not easy. The population of orphans was not so large. Generally, relatives and neighbours were taking care of destitute but most of them were exploited,” says A R Hanjura, General Secretary of the Yateem Trust. “To organise a system that could support orphans and widows, Tak set up Yateem Trust as an effort to secure the future of orphans and widows and prevent them from being exploited.”
Since then the trust facilitates the education of many hundred orphans and works for the upliftment of thousands of widows and poor girls.
The trust started its work from a small rented room at Hardushiva Sopore with 50 children. “They were the children from Sopore whose both parents had died and they had nowhere to go,” says Hanjura.
To gather orphans from different other parts of the valley and to create awareness about the condition of orphans and widows, Tak along with few associates conducted surveys and other awareness programmes. It also helped the trust to receive donations from people. In 1973 the trust shifted from Sopore to a newly constructed building in Srinagar.
Gradually the trust grew and became one of the first private charitable organisations of the valley. At present, the trust has around 40 sub-district offices helping thousands of widows financially and seven special homes that house around 400 orphans in different districts. The special homes include Gulshan Mahal Hostel (A) Bachi Darwaza Srinagar, Gulshan Mahal Hostel (B) Soura, Bostan-e-Atafal Anantnag, Bait-ul-Falah Singpora Pattan and Tak Zainagari Memorial Hostel Kupwara. Two orphanages Gulshan Bannat at Gopal Pora Budgam and Gulistan-e-Bannat Handwara are exclusively for girls.
“We don’t like to encourage orphanages in the valley. But the two-decade-old conflict has left a huge army of orphans and widows in the valley. There are several instances where a number of children lost both of their parents and have no one to take care of them,” says Hanjura. “Of course orphanages can not replace families but we are helpless. There is no other option. ”
At the special homes, the trust provides children with quality education, books, clothes and other essential requirements. Besides, the trust also sponsors some educational scholarship programmes under which it provides financial assistance of Rs 18,000 each to around one thousand students, every year. “The trust has opened bank accounts for these children so that they could continue their education at home,” says Hanjura.
The trust also provides monthly sustenance allowance to more than 2000 widows and orphan girls from different districts of the valley. “We also provide free ration, clothes and other dietary items on a monthly basis to three hundred widows and their families who have no other source of income,” says Hanjura. “Every year we assist 200 – 300 girls in terms of clothes and other essential items for their marriage.”
Apart from financial assistance, trust helps in creating self-reliance among women. It has established six training centres in Srinagar, Bijbehara, Sopore, Anantnag, Bandipora and Kupwara. All these centres impart skilful training to poor girls and help them to be financially independent.
For long term rehabilitation of widows of slain militants, the trust provides them one-time financial support for establishing income generating units. “The trust so far has assisted four hundred widows from Srinagar, Pulwama, Kangan, Sonwari and Tral who have set up small dairy units, mini shops and craft centre.”
The trust is also working in the health care of destitute. It provides medical facility to many destitute on monthly basis. It provides financial assistance of Rs 5000 to poor patients who require advanced treatment like installation of pacemakers, heart valve replacements and other complicated surgeries.
For all its expenses the trust depends on donations. Its annual budget is around four crore rupees. “The trust has achieved FCRA (Foreign Contribute Regulation Act) permission in 2003 and at present are receiving donation from many foreign welfare agencies which form a large portion of its annual budget”, says Hanjura.
“Currently we are working with organisations like Muslim Aid, Muslim Charity Action Aid and Save the children. These organisations are helping us in many of rehabilitating programs for orphans and widows.” These are long term programmes and under which the trust is providing every possible help to widows and orphans so that they can be accommodated within the community.