Yateem Khana literally means ‘home for orphans’. Located in Srinagar, this institute is devoted to the care of hundreds of orphans besides supporting many underprivileged destitute of valley. In Kashmir Life’s special series, Shazia Khan profiles this charitable organisation.
(Solemn Patience:“We, who have so much, need to reach out to the orphans of this world and show them the care, hope, and love they deserve.” ― Kim De Blecourt, Until We All Come Home: A Harrowing Journey, a Mother’s Courage, a Race to Freedom)
Established in 1998, Yateem Khana is a sub constituent of Muslim Welfare Society Srinagar. Earlier, the society was organised only to promote religious teachings in valley. However, after the outbreak of armed conflict in valley the situation turned very tense with the killings of thousands of people.
“These calamities left behind a number of orphans, widows, physically challenged and mental challenged people,” says Syed Atti-ullah Bukhari, Chairman Yateem Khana.
To help these destitute, the Society started two active programmes – relief activity and scholarship programmes.
Under the programme, the society identified many poor and needy people and helped them financially. However, both the activities could not continue for long. “We received lots of inquires about the donors and receivers from different armed agencies. Not to put them in trouble, we started thinking on an alternative line,” says Bukhari.
In 1998, Muslim Welfare Society registered an orphanage under the name of Yateem Khana and started its work in a single story house with three rooms. Fifteen orphans were taken in the orphanage in the first batch. “Yateem Khana was an initiative taken by only few people but within a year it became a mission to take responsibility of deceased’s children. Now the mission is led by common people of valley,” says Bukhari.
At present, the orphanage accommodates around 350 boys in three big buildings which have been constructed on 11 kanals of land. “These orphans are those boys who had lost either one or both parents and have no other option to stay anywhere,” says Bukhari.
For educational facilities, the society has built a higher secondary school with well equipped laboratory, library and computer centre within the premises of orphanage.
Under the guidance of more than twenty teachers, the education systems here are designed in between the religious and worldly education. “We shape a child’s overall character so that he can assume his rightful place in society,” says Bukhari.
(Searching Someone:“It’s all right. I’m not upset. After all, they were just things. When you’ve lost your mother and your father, you can’t care so much about things, can you?” ― Kazuo Ishiguro, When We Were Orphans)
Orphanage’s chief warden, Mubashir Ahmad says that the purpose of imparting quality education is the development of society through these boys. “We put stress on children to develop abilities so that they are able to carry out their responsibility to see oneself in the context of family, a large society and a nation instead of just hurtling through life in chaos of whims and ambitions,” adds Mubashir Ahmad.
In addition to these orphans, Yateem Khana is supporting around a hundred underprivileged students from different areas of valley who receive free books, uniform, day meals and transportation system besides education at the school.
Education of these boys is not the sole focus of the orphanage. The society has set up fitness, dental and medicare centres for ensuring a healthy life standard of the boys. These centres function round the clock.
The institute also sponsors different scholarship programme under which they provide financial aid and lodging to many poor and meritorious students, pursuing their study in different professional and degree colleges. Besides, there are around 500 economically weak women and other handicapped and mentally challenged persons who receive monthly sustenance from the Yateem Khana’s regular financial scheme.
“Thrice a year, these people visit our office and receive our help in one way or other,” informs Bukhari.
(Quiet Queue: “Tell me, Theodore, were you playing against orphans, by any chance?”
― Sheri Cobb South, The Weaver Takes a Wife)
The society has also established five craft centres for women in different locations of Srinagar – Batamalo, Dargha, Hazratbal, Rainawari, Bemina and Shivpora. At these centres, women belonging to different age groups and status receive training in various skills with the help of professional staff to enable them earn a livelihood for self sustainability.
For all its expenses, Yateem foundation depends on donation. The annual budget of orphanage is more than one crore. “We are not affiliated with any national or international group. All the money comes from local donors, philanthropies and sponsors, who have adopted orphans through Yateem Khana,” says Bukhari.
Bukhari believes that a lot remains to be done for reaching these orphans. “The number of orphans in last two decades have exceeded to more than one lakh. So far, what we have done has not accommodated even one percent of the total number,” informs Bukhari
To achieve the desired target, Yateem Khana is building one more hostel for accommodating more children. They have also a long term programme to build a well maintained hospital and mosque in the premises of orphanage.