Aarti Home—an NGO working to stop the cycle of female abandonment, mistreatment, and infanticide in India—is making thousands of masks and providing vital supplies and support to migrant day-labourers and slum dwellers amid Coronavirus crisis.
Indian orphanage on the frontline in battle with coronavirus
A children’s home in Southern India has been in the frontline of the battle against Covid-19 in its impoverished community. The Aarti Home, in Kadapa, provides a home and education for orphaned, abandoned, trafficked, and abused children. It also runs a range of training programmes and raises awareness of good health and hygiene practices in its community, a small quarry mining town in south-eastern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
With the spread of the pandemic to India, Aarti’s inspirational founder Sandhya Puchalapalli has thrown the charity’s resources into helping the most vulnerable people in Kadapa’s slums. She said: “Our relief operations are centred on four areas – awareness, relief, prevention and support.”
Many of the essential workers in Kadapa are wearing masks made by Aarti women
Before India went into lockdown in March, Aarti Home started raising awareness about social distancing with 1,000 large banners giving hygiene guidance and information about the virus which were displayed all over the area. And a further 5,000 leaflets highlighting the importance of handwashing were also distributed.
“We are creating and distributing three kinds of packs for different sections of society – a sanitation relief pack consisting of cleaning supplies and masks; a dry ration relief pack for families in dire need and Covid-19 patient kits for quarantined patients for all their needs,” said Sandhya Puchalapalli the founder and driving force of AARTI HOMES.
“We have made and distributed 3,000 sanitation packs, 3,000 dry relief packs and 35 patient kits. The identification and distribution is being done in close collaboration with the district administration to identify and reach 21,695 families and 700 migrant workers. We are looking to distribute another 7,000 kits. ”
Since March Aarti’s women’s cooperative has been making 1,000 reusable two and three-ply masks a day for frontline workers.
“This is enabling our women to earn a living while performing an extremely valuable task. Currently, many of our essential workers in Kadapa are wearing masks made by Aarti women,” Ms.Puchalapalli said.
In addition, Aarti has donated 10 beds to the Kadapa hospital’s isolation ward and is involved in helping stranded migrant workers who are struggling, without food or shelter, to get home.
The charity was sent a thank-you note from a senior local official, the district collector and magistrate. It read: “Thank You! Aarti Home for extending your support in this time of crisis to support the needy in general and migrant workers in particular. We appreciate your work. Your services amid the global pandemic will always be remembered.”
Sandhya added: “Our most vulnerable sections of society – children and women in need – continue to face even more danger now. Our helplines and support networks are open and continue to work 24/7.”
From an article published on the Rotary Club of Maidenhead blog. Maidenhead Rotarians Have supported Aarti Home since 2012.
Aarti home relief operations for COVID 19 are centred on four areas:
- Awareness: Aarti started awareness on social distancing and hygiene through 1000 banners and 5000 leaflets in slums across Kadapa town in Early March.
- Relief: We are creating and distributing three kinds of packs for different sections of society – sanitation relief pack consisting of cleaning supplies and masks, Dry ration relief pack for families in dire need and COVID patient kits for the quarantined patients for all their needs. We are making and distributing Sanitation packs, dry ration relief packs and COVID patient kits. The identification and distribution is being done in close collaboration with district administration to identify and reach 21695 families and 700 migrant workers’ families.
- Prevention: We have trained several tailors and have formed cooperatives. With our women, we are making handmade masks everyday since March end for people in need and sending them to the people in the frontline
- Support: Our most vulnerable sections of society – children and women in need continue to face even more danger now. Our helplines and support networks are open and continue to work 24/7.
The reality of Covid-19 in India
Aarti Home has been working hand in hand with the district administration and government in Kadappa to distribute rations, provisions, masks and heath kits to the poorest of poor who have been most impacted by the crisis.
The lock-down of 1.3 billion people in India due to Covid-19 has meant that tens of millions of daily wage workers and migrant labourers who work in Indian cities are stranded without any way of getting back to their families in villages. These workers who work in industries like construction, make ends meet on a day to day basis have no way to feed themselves or their families. Hunger and despair has lead millions of these people to walk their way home in the absence of any available transportation.
Aarti Home is working closely with district administration in Kadappa to support these families with food, medical supplies and safety kits as they weather this unprecedented crisis. Extra thought and care went into the food parcels, as many of the migrant workers are not rice-eaters, and this was foreseen and catered for in the ration packs distributed.
Aarti Home services have been included in essential services so they are able to provide help where needed.
If you’re interested in contributing or providing support, please visit Aarti’s (Covid-19) CAMPAIGN page. When an orphanage is leading the way in disaster relief, they need all the help they can get.
Aarti: Empowering women
Three decades ago, Aarti for Girls began as a shelter known as Aarti Home for abandoned children. With over 1,000 children passing through its doors, Aarti Home has become a haven for children who have suffered abuse, trafficking, and abandonment. Through their efforts, they quickly learned that 90% of India’s abandoned children are girls.
As the home grew, they soon realised that behind every abandoned girl was a mother who was unable to protect her child. Over time, their mission has broadened to address the underlying gender discrimination and violence affecting both women and girls.
At its core, Aarti fosters and supports abandoned girls in Kadapa by providing them with a home and opportunity. Simultaneously, they work to educate and empower women in the larger community through training and advocacy programs. They aim to help women achieve economic and emotional independence, gain confidence, and understand their personal rights.
In 1977, Sandhya Puchalapalli, an English teacher in her early twenties, moved to Kadapa with her husband and two young girls. Working as a government high school teacher, Sandhya became painfully aware of the discrepancies between male and female children in the Kadapa district. Many of the girls she taught and interacted with in her community were forced into early marriages, taken out of school to work as domestic help as early as age six, and lacked educational or vocational opportunities. Girls were prepared for a reality of marriage after secondary school and likely frequent domestic abuse.
Sandhya and the other concerned teachers helped in small ways, such as raising money for the nominal school fees that many students often could not afford, but Sandhya was deeply disturbed and saddened by the bleak futures offered to the girls.
In 1992, a washerwoman approached Sandhya with a two-year-old girl, Radhika, who had been abandoned on the streets of Kadapa. Her father had killed her mother in yet another case of domestic violence, and he had abandoned the child. Triggered by the past injustices she had seen, Sandhya decided that she would foster the girl.
This defining moment marked the beginning of a life’s work. After taking the baby in, Sandhya, her young nieces, and her friends (Sunita, Durga, and Vimala) decided to establish a home for a few abandoned girls. At this time, they only had a few simple goals: to give these girls a home, support their education, and teach them that they are valuable. Soon, community members from all walks of life stepped up to support their cause. From these humble roots, Aarti was born.
Aarti Home featured in the hard-hitting BBC documentary India’s Missing Girls, investigating how every week in India thousands of girls are killed, aborted or abandoned simply because of their gender.
Find out more about Aarti at their website or on Facebook.
If you’re interested in contributing or providing support, please visit their Covid-19 CAMPAIGN page or their regular DONATIONS page for school upkeep and the children’s education.
It became clear that this process of abandonment and gender-based discrimination could not be stopped by simply fostering the abandoned children. There needed to be a larger social movement to support mothers in protecting their children and empower women to live emotionally and economically independent lives.
Today, Aarti for Girls is working to create this social change. This umbrella organisation includes:
- Aarti Home for abandoned girls
- Aarti School
- the Women’s Empowerment Project (WEP) introducing activity-based workshops, vocational training programs for destitute women
- the Mana Bidda Project (an EU-sponsored program advocating for girl children in Kadapa district)
- and the Abhaya project (another EU-backed initiative strengthening the network of human rights defenders in Kadapa and Chittoor).
Aarti aim to address gender discrimination by helping women to achieve economic and emotional independence, gain confidence, and understand their personal rights.
If you’re interested in contributing or providing support, please visit Aarti’s CAMPAIGN page.
Help Aarti to help others in the Covid-19 crisis.
Aarti Home has been working hand in hand with the district administration and government in Kadappa to distribute rations, provisions, masks and heath kits to the poorest of poor who have been most impacted by the crisis. Aarti Home is working closely with district administration in Kadappa to support these families with food, medical supplies and safety kits as they weather this unprecedented crisis. Aarti Home services have been included in essential services so they are able to provide help where needed. If you're interested in contributing or providing support, please visit Aarti’s CAMPAIGN page.