Bengaluru: The journey of Balya, a free home for children, started in 2004 when two children were found abandoned by their own parents on the Old Airport Road in Bengaluru. A call came to V. Annapoorna Ram about the crying children, and she gave shelter to the little ones. That was the trigger for her to start Balya, a unit run by the Annapoorna Charitable Trust, to help abandoned children.
The school, which started with the two children, now has 70 kids aged between 5 and 16. “Apart from these 70 children, we also have some 65-70 students coming to the school, which is within the campus of the orphanage, as they cannot afford fees. All these children are provided free food and free education," informed Mr K.S. Bhakatavatsala, an active member and manager of Balya.
The founder and now managing trustee, V. Annapoorna Ram, was, however, not suddenly thrown into social work. She was working as a teacher in a school for physically and mentally disabled children. In the process, she had felt the need to help children of construction workers who have no access to good education, proper food, and more than all an opportunity to enjoy their childhood. “The Trust is formed by a group of likeminded people with the vision to look after the growing needs of the socially deprived children. The primary vision of the Trust is to bring solace to deprived children who have no place to go," said Mr Bhakatavatsala.
He said, “It won't be fair to call our place an orphanage and we prefer calling it one big family where we support each other."
The trust works closely with the Child Welfare Committee which informs them about abandoned children. “We work closely with the Child Welfare Committee, child court, the police, the helpline 1098 and other NGOs who spot children abandoned, rag picking or begging. They come to us and we take the children in," he explained.
“Our goal is to identify deprived and orphaned children and admit them into the Children Home. We provide these children with hygienic food and shelter with comfortable living conditions. Along with this, it is extremely crucial to also improve their vocational and other personal skills, so that they can live independently by earning their own livelihood. We assist them in that journey," he continued.
The school is from pre-nursery to 8th standard and runs under the state board permission. For funds, the Trust depends mostly on donations made by the seven trustees and their friends and family. Rest is local donations. “There is no government funding and it is mostly from the trustees and local contributions. Our monthly expenditure, including clothes, uniforms, stationery and food, runs up to around Rs 3 lakh. We have 21 staffers, including 12 teachers and nine members," he elaborated.
“The future plan is to extend the education services till Second PU. We want to plan it in such a way that we enable them to get a job. Our goal is to educate them up to second year PUC," he says.