Caring for the less priviledged

Thousands of orphans, widows and downtrodden need support to live a dignified life, however, only some spare their time, and money, to help the less fortunate in the society. Aliya Bashir reports.

For almost two years, a group of people frequently met to discuss ways through which they could help the increasing number of orphans and widows in Kashmir. Their efforts bore fruit with the birth of Bait-ul-Hilal orphanage in 2000 CE, when 32 children were admitted in a small rented building at Gogji Bagh, Srinagar.

“We started with contributions from our own pockets and collected some donations from friends and relatives. When the contribution corpus was about Rs 5 lakh, we established the trust,” says Syed Abdul Hameed, Patron, J&K Yateem Foundation.

The founder members and some of their friends visited different districts in both Kashmir and Jammu regions to assess the ground situation of orphans and widows, before establishing the orphanage.“To establish an orphanage without any research was impossible,” he says.

When the number of children in the orphanage increased, it was shifted to another building in nearby Jawahar Nagar area in November 2003.The orphanage houses 50 boys from ages between six to 15 years. The foundation also runs an orphanage in Souch Kulgam under the same name (Bait-ul-Hilal) which houses another 27 boys of five to 14 years age.

“It was not easy to motivate people to send their wards to our orphanage. So first they came to see themselves and attended some of our programs and then only admitted their wards in our foundation,” says Hameed.

However, the trust does not run any orphanage for girls. “We were never in support of orphanage for girls. I think that is not an easy task keeping all the factors in mind. I think we are not that competent to take such a big responsibility,” he says.Besides running orphanages, the foundation provides financial help to poor students, medical care to downtrodden people and monthly stipend for poor widows through its various programmes.Around 3500 less-priviledged people have benefitted from the foundation’s 12 different welfare, educational and scholarships programmes. Besides, the foundation runs many welfare programmes for widows and orphan girls.

The foundation instituted the Educational Scholarship Scheme in 2002 to support poor students through three types of scholarships- Basic, Higher and Professional so that they could undertake their study without leaving their homes. So far around 600 students have been covered under the programme with 300 students getting the assistance in last year alone. The scholarships range from Rs 1,000 to Rs 10,000 per annum.

In order to help orphan girls, the foundation had sponsored a special programme – Girls Upliftment in Domestic environment (GUIDE), which supports more than 50 orphan girls with financial help of Rs 1000 besides taking care of their educational and other expenses.  

The foundation organises programmes to create awareness on the benefits of austere marriage ceremonies. It has also provided financial help for marriages of 500 orphan and poor girls ranging from 5000 to 20,000 rupees and some other items. “Besides helping the girls financially, we also provide them with vocational training in different skills to make them self-reliant. We have more than 250 women under this scheme. Different centres are run by them at Bandipora, Srinagar, Kishtwar, Kulgam, Kupwara, Uri and Shopian,” says Hameed.

For long-term rehabilitation of widows the organisation has provided onetime financial assistance to 15 widows for establishing income generating units to earn their livelihood.  These include diary units, shops and craft centres.

Although, the foundation is affiliated to many welfare groups, most of their funds come from local donations which are primarily collected in the Muslim holy month of Ramdhan.The foundation received more than Rs 12 lakh in donations in the first year of its establishment, Rs 25 lakh in second and Rs more than 44 lakh in third year. The donations have been growing every year. In 2007-2008, the foundation received Rs 1.52 crore, in 2008-2009 about Rs 1.87 crore and in 2009-2010 Rs 2.21 crore in donations.

In 2004, the foundation secured permission to receive foreign donations, which are governed by Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. The foundation received foreign donations of more than Rs 3 lakh in the first year after getting the permission. The fund flow has been growing since then, with the foreign contribution reaching Rs 75 lakh in 2009-2010.

At present the foundation has collaboration with Save the Children, Action Aid and Mercy Universal for different programs and projects.For maintaining transparency, the management invites its donors to assess their records and functioning. “Our system works on a three-tier system which is from management to donor to beneficiaries. Whatever is there we work in a very transparent mode. This idea of interaction has worked well,” says Hameed.Various studies put the number of orphans at one lakh and around 32,000 widows in the conflict ridden Kashmir.

On its 10th foundation day, the trust established a medical diagnostics centre at Karan Nagar, Srinagar. “As government was already overburdened in the medical sector, so we were looking for alternatives. At the centre, we provide 50 to 60 per cent subsidy to the general people and free to those who cannot afford,” says Hameed.

Mohammad Ayub has been the warden of Bait-ul-Hilal, Jawahar Nagar from last eight years. He says that on an average around 97 per cent of orphans are neglected by the orphanages. “We spend around 3000 rupees on a child in an orphanage which could normally feed at least three orphans in the community. In an orphanage, a child develops a fragile and low on confidence personality,” he says.

Ayub says that after coming out of the orphanage, the child finds it difficult to adjust in his home, which has little facilities or resources. “At an orphanage a child is provided with every facility as he doesn’t have to do anything himself. There is always a helper available. But at home when he doesn’t find the same facilities, he becomes violent,” he says. “So, the place is best for those who have lost both parents and has no other option.”

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