Children's homes

Pastor John J. Y. Arul, the founder of Love and Care, took in two orphaned little girls when he found them begging with their crippled grandfather in 1994, numbers grew rapidly and he now cares for around 800 children in several states in India. The two original girls, Nirmala and Chitra, are now grown up and married.

Nirmala with Edmund whose mother died in childbirth
Nirmala with Edmund
Chitra gathering sapputo fruit on the ten acre farm owned by Love and Care
Chitra gathering

The main home accommodates girls from newborn until they finish college, boys from newborn until they move to the senior boys' home at around the age of 11 years where they stay until completing their education.

The main home has a primary school on site. The older children go to local Christian schools and some go on to college where they study commerce, computer science, nursing or accounting degrees. Prabakaran, one of the very first children to arrive at the home after his father died from a snake bite, is Love and Care's first Law Student.

The less academic students study tailoring, home nursing, welding, printing, computing. Love and Care runs it own printing school for the boys and a tailoring school where widows are trained as well as the young girls from the homes.

New legislation concerning the management of children's homes, requiring a compound wall around the home
The new compound wall

There are the two main homes in Madurai, plus one on the Tamil Nadu Coast that was set up after the tsunami. Children are also supported in their own home and there is one more home in Karnataka.

Starting in July 2014 the state government of Tamil Nadu introduced much new legislation concerning the management of children's homes. It requires a compound wall around the home, CCTV, a separate home for boys and girls over the age of 5 years, and yet another home for children under 5 years. No mentally handicapped children are allowed to remain and must be sent elsewhere. There can only be 50 children in each building. All this is putting the management under enormous strain, emotionally and financially. Without official recognition the homes could be closed.

As of September 2016:

The main home has been temporarily closed since last year due to the demands of government officials with a Hindu extremist agenda.

The compound wall was built, CCTV installed, the plumbing improved but still the officials wanted more improvements. Many Christian children’s homes in Tamil Nadu have been closed down and Pastor John Arul continues to press for the home to reopen. However many of the children remain in his care, either in school hostels, the senior boys’ home or supported in their own homes.

There are 50 girls from the main home who attend a Christian school and live in its hostel. Some 8 children attend one of the two schools opposite the Love and Care office and have regular contact with pastors and office staff.

Six girls are in a government hostel, most of whom are full of orphans, in Chennai. John is no longer allowed to care for orphans but he is trying to get permission for the children to visit Madurai in the school holidays. The warden of this home is a Christian but the care is poor, as it is in many government homes, and when John was allowed to visit recently he found all the girls except one were underweight. It is so sad to think that the political agenda is robbing these children of their home and loving care.

Another 18 girls are in a Hindu-run home about 1 hour’s drive south of Madurai. Though the children are well cared for here and visited by a Love and Care member of staff every two weeks, they are forced to worship Hindu gods.

Florence, a 16-year-old tribal girl, was sent to a Catholic home near her native village about 3 hour’s drive north of Madurai. This is hard for a girl who came to the home at a young age but she is managing very well and prays for all in the home and the nuns much appreciate her ministry! She will be able to return to Madurai once she is 18.

The senior boys' home remains open although officials are now demanding changes there. About 60 boys attend a Lutheran school in the centre of Madurai; the older boys live at the home while the younger ones stay in the school hostel during the week and return to the boys' home at weekends and in the holidays.

There are also 150 children in Love and Care’s people development program, pdp, which means they are supported while still living in their own home. Several children who were in the main home are being cared for in this way. Love and Care provides school uniforms, books, bags etc. plus some basic foodstuffs on a monthly basis, which enables the child to continue in education.

Overall, the main home situation is far from ideal but the pastor has done a great job of maintaining the care of many of the children taken from there.