A CHANCE TO GIVE HOPE TO TAMIL NADU'S ORPHANS.
SAN LEANDRO, Calif. - In 1974, a housewife named Lilly Prabhakaran started a tiny orphanage in Maduravoyal, Tamil Nadu with five children.
Since then, the orphanage now known as Children's Home of Hope has sheltered over 1,000 orphans, giving them schooling, medical care and even vocational training - and giving a flush of pride to Dr. Nilima Sabharwal, a local pathologist dedicated to the home's support.
"You chose to spend chhoti Diwali with us" she told the audience. "This gives the event a special significance."
Children's Home of Hope,Inc., will host its second annual fund-raiser Nov.6 at the San Ramon Community Center.
Sabharwal visited the orphanage in February of this year, 10 miles outside Chennai. " I was very impressed", she told India-West. " Every cent has been used so effectively. I was also impressed by all the love, compassion, discipline and cleanliness in the orphanage."
Today's favorable exchange rates have helped the money to go even farther, she said " I am inspired by the power of the single dollar. It gets multiplied by 42 when converted to rupees, and I was very gratified to see what a major difference that money can make in India."
She added that the overhead costs for this year's fundraiser have already been met, so "every dollar is going directly to the cause." The program's mission statement includes a provision that "we will support only those institutions that are managed by people of thehighest integrity on a volunteer basis."
In the past year , 31 children have been sponsored by Bay Area families, for a contribution of $ 10 a month ($120 a year).
Thanks in part to the success of last year's fundraiser, which netted $15,000, clean, new tiled bathrooms have replaced dilapidated tin-roofed huts, helping to reduce the incidence of diseases over the past year;the home has been whitewashed and repaired; and a second hand van has been purchased. The home also has a new kitchen and water purification system.
Sabharwal was told about the orphanage by a family friend in June of last year. "Something inside me - call it a calling from the Divine Power - made me want to help them," she said. "Also, I believe we are so blessed over here and our children are so privileged. They live in abundance.
"These children in India have nothing. They don't have the basic needs like food, clothing and shelter that we take for granted here".
Sabharwal, a Hillsborough resident, is grateful to the Indian American Community in the Bay Area for the success of the venture so far. Each helps in their own way, she said: In place of birthday gifts, her 15 year old daughter Sonia requested donations to Home of Hope. She was able to raise $2,000.00 . Other Home of Hope supporters include her husband, Dr.Umesh Sabharwal; Anil Lal - "without him, Home ofHope could not have been started", she said - and Raqvi Kumra, Simmi Bhargava, Ashok Mathur, David Muller, and Jeevan Zutshi among many others.
Sabharwal also thanked Taj Palace Restaurant of San Jose and deejays Lal Toofan for subsidizing food and music costs at the Nov.6 event.
In a community often divided by regional and religious allegiances, the groundswell of support here - attracting Indian Americans from across India - is somewhat of a marvel. "Many people ask me why am I supporting an orphanage in Madras, when I am North Indian?" She said."Nobody from Home of Hope,Inc., is even remotely connected to Madras ... but I feel very blessed to have been able to conmnect with a place like Children's Home of Hope".
What was originally a home for the children of leprosy sufferers grew to accommodate other home- less children and orphans.
Designed to house 50 children, the school has expanded to house 125 at a time. Now it provides the children a loving and caring environment; nutritious food and clothing; basic medical care; elementary school education at the Taniya Nursery and Primary School (followed by education at other lopcal schools);a sports and entertainment program;and vocational training. Home of Hope encourages the children to develop a secular, humanist outlook.
"The orphanage is the embodiment of love, compassion and integrity," said Sabharwal, adding that it is "secular and non-biased on race, religion or creed.
Prabhakaran is still there 25 years later, working as avolunteer. There are now six full-time, paid staffers aided by a host of volunteers, some of whom are former students.
The orphanage receives minimal funding from the Tamil Nade State Government, which is why Sabharwal has turned up the intensity on her pleas for community support among Indian Americans in the Bay Area.
The fundraiser will include a delicious dinner (if last year's event was any indication), fine wines, a bharatnatyam performance, and the DJ rhythms of bhangra, filmi and hip-hop.
Tickets are only $35 per person or $ 60 per couple, and $15 for children under 12. All tickets and contributions are tax deductible. For more information call (650)574-0374 or (408)972-7301. Readers wishing to mail a contribution may send it to Home of Hope, Inc., 190 tobin Clark Dr., Hillsborough, Calif. 94010.