Swanthana

Care and Protection Centre for Mentally Challenged Female Children, Bangalore

Young  Maanika had spent 18 years of her life in Bangalore, India, amidst the poor and needy. She knew she had a blessed childhood , getting whatever she needed and asked for (within limits). Every year we had 3 celebrations for her birthday – first at school with cake and sweets, the second a birthday party for friends and family – initially we organized the food and games and the guest list but later she planned and executed it herself  having a sleepover with her teenage friends while we were banished to her grandma’s place!! These could be before or after the actual date, but for the third, we went as a family to a posh restaurant for dinner on the actual date, wishing her at the exact time!!

Suddenly, one year Maanika decided she wanted to celebrate her birthday with the little inmates of Shishu Bhavan, Mother Teresa’s home for the unwanted children.- and that is exactly what we did.

A few years later , Maanika moved to Austria. Her first Christmas there with her brother and friends was not only white but filled with extravagance all around. There were so many Christmas markets, shops filled with goodies and churches and streets decorated colourfully. Perhaps after singing Silent Night in the darkened chapel after midnight Mass, she suddenly thought of the poor less fortunate people back in India.

By then she had started teaching English, both at a nearby institute and privately to earn some extra pocket money. In the New Year, as soon as the Christmas holidays ended she took her bold step. Since she was studying Pedagogie , a graduation degree for special children, she told her friends about the many special  children in India who hardly had a home, let alone a proper Christmas meal, gifts or decorations. She asked them to donate whatever they wanted and whatever was collected she would double it and send it to India. Her closest friend Steffi was the first to come forward- she put her hand in her pocket and took out one euro and put it into Maanika’s collection box. Thereafter everyone got into the spirit ,even her English student’s grandfather, who donated 20 euros. Before she knew it , Maanika had collected 40 euros and added 40 euros from her own meagre savings. She then called me and told me to identify a home for special children in Bangalore, where she could give her donation..

As luck would have it, a few days earlier ,a close friend  had told me about SWANTHANA., a symbol for Support, Warmth, Availability, Nourishment, Tenderness, Holistic approach, Affection, Nature and Assistance to the mentally and physically challenged orphaned female children in Bangalore. These children are so badly affected that their parents and families do not want them and are just dumped. The sisters of ‘the daughters of St Camillus’ have a vision of offering quality care and protection to these children, that is comprehensive and holistic with a preferential option for the mentally retarded children. Most of them are so severely  challenged, that they have to be carried every morning to the common room for sunshine and back to their beds every night. When we visited, there was ONLY ONE pretty little orphan who was normal – she was such a feast for the eyes ,amidst all the challenged children that she became thoroughly spoilt and pampered!!

God works in really wondrous and mysterious ways. When I called the Sister in charge, asking what particular item she needed for the home, she mentioned that she had just  ordered for 3 bathing beds with a central hole for the water to drain, so the children could be easily bathed lying down. She didn’t know where the money would come from , but was sure God would provide. And guess what – Maanika’s collection of 40+40 euros worked out to exactly 4500 Rs (at 2010 conversion rate) which was the cost of the 3 bathing beds @, 1500 Rs each!!!   

We promptly drove all the way to the other end of Bangalore on the outskirts and handed over the cheque to the Sister in charge. We went around the home where these special children were being lovingly cared for. Since we could not take a picture with the children , we took one of us handing over the cheque as proof for Maanika’s donor friends.

Over the years , Maanika has not forgotten these special children. One year she convinced us to help them in whatever way we could. When I asked Sister, she said the greatest need was for juice and milk . Again God helped us. Our online shopping centre Spar had a “Buy one get one free” offer for Tropicana juice. We promptly ordered 2 boxes of 24 cartons each of Tropicana juice and added 2 boxes of 24 cartons each of Good Life milk and again drove there to deliver them.

Having finished her degree, Maanika started teaching in a government school for special children. Going daily to work in the bitter wintry mornings, she remembered these special needy children back home. While we were enjoying hot Christmas punch in the different Christmas markets dressed warmly but still freezing in our winter woollens, she thought about making another collection for Swanthana. Back home, I called up Sister and she mentioned that they had run out of cotton mattresses as they were frequently soiled by the special children. Maanika put up a notice on her staff room board and before long she had enough to sponsor 50 cotton mattresses with protective cover for longer life. Our mattress maker, Pillow Babu as we call him, was willing to make them and drop them off over 40kms from our place (we only paid his petrol costs) adding 2 more mattresses from his own earnings. He took along his 2 solid fat sons to help unload. He related how his 2 grown up sons were moved to tears seeing the helpless  little ones.

And Maanika has still not forgotten them. Last year when her colleagues and friends from Austria came to India for her marriage, they were touched by the poverty all around. David, a thorough gentleman, wanted to sponsor children in different homes. On Maanika’s suggestion, he donated a big sum to Swanthana too(besides other charities) for whatever they needed . God bless all these generous souls.    

One thought on “Swanthana

  1. It’s good to see young people stand up for their beliefs and values. What a wonderful way Maanika found to make so many people generous

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