Orphanages, destitute homes in trouble as funds dry up amid Covid pandemic
Their school fees has to be paid, computers have to be set up for their online classes, many children require clothes, slippers even medical care. But as donations and funds dry up due to the uncertainty over the Covid-19 pandemic, non-government organisations (NGOs) running destitute homes and orphanages in and around Chandigarh are finding it a challenge to stay afloat. Some homes have even sent children back to relatives.
Dr Harminder Singh, founder of Jyoti Sarup Kanya Asra, a home for 135 girls in Kharar, says it has been months since he bought clothes and slippers for them. Even getting ration to feed them is tough.
Sending them back to relatives, however, is not an option. “They are my daughters,” he says.
To tide over the crisis, Dr Singh says he has been spending from the destitute home’s rapidly depleting savings, as the monthly expenditure comes to about ₹4.8 lakh. With schools shifting focus to online learning, “we have invested in computers for the children so that their studies do not suffer,” he adds.
The home now has 20 computers with a new dish to enable children to keep up with their studies, says Dr Singh.
Children sent to relatives
“We had no option but to send some children to their relatives,” says Kawar Singh Dhami, chairman of Gur Aasra Trust that runs a destitute home in Palsora village in Sector 55, Chandigarh.
Of the 40 residents here, now just 25 including 12 children remain. “People are losing jobs, how can we expect them to donate? We are managing with whatever little money we get as donations,” he adds.
Kulbir Kaur Dhami, who manages another orphanage run by the Gur Aasra Trust in Sector 78, Mohali, with about 100 girl residents, is worried about their school fees which has not been paid. “We have not been able to buy their books or school bags.”
About ₹3 lakh is required to clear all dues when schools reopen, she says.
“We have 60 children who go to school and do not have enough computers for their online classes or the money to buy them. The children have about four mobile phones which they share, but that’s not enough,” adds Kulbir.
There are additional worries. A few days back a 15-year-old from Saharanpur found in Dera Bassi was brought to the home. “We are insisting on a Covid-19 test before the child is brought to the home for the safety of the other children,” she says.
Where will medicines come from?
At Prabh Asra in Mohali, which has 450 residents, including 90 children, new inmates are being refused admission.
“We don’t have enough staff, as only those staying on campus are being put on duty. So there is a shortage of space too,” says Rajinder Kaur, who manages the home.
It is run by the NGO Universal Disabled Care-Taker Social Welfare Society, founded by Shamsher Singh. Kaur is his wife.
“There has been a 90% drop in donations, forcing us to rethink expansion plans. Expenditure on medicines and ration has increased. Surgeries of many inmates are pending,” she adds.
So much so, when a pregnant teenage inmate developed complications, Kaur had to knock on many doors to get her ultrasound done as her Aadhaar card did not have the Prabh Asra address where she is lodged currently.
“We have 35 school going children but we have managed to provide personal phones with WiFi to 13 students in senior classes. We have also hired teachers to help them with studies as connectivity at times is an issue,” Kaur adds.