“You can now contribute to our latest project, a children´s home for girls in need in India.”
Alexander Busl, Managing Director of PATRIZIA Children Foundation
PATRIZIA Child Care Porayar, India
The PATRIZIA Children Foundation has opened a building in southern India to provide much needed accommodation for girls in need. The new building at the PATRIZIA Child Care in Porayar houses 240 girls aged between five and 17. They all come from poor and difficult family backgrounds. Many are half or full orphans.
The new PATRIZIA Child Care Porayar provides the girls and young women with a family environment, as well as structured lives with assigned responsibilities. The new two-storey building is fitted with western-standard sanitary facilities and provides the girls with shelter and security.
The inner courtyard features a large playground and plenty of space to play and romp around. The girls also meet several times a day in the dining room for joint activities. And thanks to the fertile soil in Porayar, the newly created garden will soon provide the girls with rich, healthy food.
The previous accommodation building needed to be replaced after termites undermined the structure. It was at this point that the PATRIZIA Children Foundation became involved in creating a new building. It currently offers shelter and security for 240 girls. In the long run there will be room for almost 280 young women.
Not a matter of course: school education
The adjacent school provides the girls with an education and thus the chance for a better and self-determined life. In India, girls from impoverished backgrounds often face limited education possibilities with many families electing only to allow their sons to attend school.
At PATRIZIA Child Care Porayar we go one step further: a guard from the dormitory accompanies the older girls on their way to the next town, where they attend the upper two grades. This enables both the younger and older girls to safely benefit from education.
Strong partnership with ELM
For this home the PATRIZIA Children Foundation partnered for the first time with the Evangelical Lutheran Missionary Work in Lower Saxony (ELM). As a joint partner church in Porayar, the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church (TELC) has been running the children’s home since 1994.
Director Katherinal Punithavathy and her 13 staff members educate the girls of all denominations according to Christian values, but without strict dogma. The aim is to give the girls access to education and for them to leave the home to receive a subsequent training or university education.
Reaching our goal with warmth and joy
Travel report: Sabine Schillinger-Köhne visited the PATRIZIA Child Care Porayar, India
“Raising girls is like watering your neighbor’s garden.” This is how an Indian proverb drastically and clearly sums up the position of girls and women in large parts of the populous South Asian state. This is precisely why the work of the PATRIZIA Children Foundation is so important here. On the occasion of the opening of its 17th Children Center, Sabine Schillinger-Köhne, the foundation’s director got her own feeling for the PATRIZIA Child Care Porayar, and life in India in general. Here she talks about her impressions.
In our new girls’ home in Porayar in southern India, we help girls from poor, broken families. Many are half or full orphans and need a roof over their heads. It is essential to them to have a new family environment in order to grow up sheltered and protected. This also means having permanent structures, regular meals and schooling. After a termite attack, the old girls’ home threatened to collapse and was forced to be close. With the support of the PATRIZIA Children Foundation, a new two-storey building for 280 girls was erected.
Everyday life of the girls in the PATRIZIA Child Care Porayar
From the very first day I was thrilled how warm and friendly the tone was in the dormitory. The 13 employees meet the currently 240 girls aged between five and 17 at eye level. They give the young women of various denominations self-confidence, they distribute tasks and duties within the group and protect them on their way to school. Many of the girls attend the adjacent school. The older girls that go to school in the next town, where they attend the final two grades, are accompanied by a guard from the home for their safety. Everyday tasks such as washing clothes and dishes help the young residents learn to assume responsibility. They can also simply let off steam in the large square behind the dormitory and on the playground.
Our new project partner for long-term cooperation in India: ELM
Porayar also marks the beginning of the cooperation with a new project partner, ELM – the Evangelisch Lutherischen Missionswerk in Niedersachsen, and their local partner TELC (Evangelical Lutheran Tamil Church). Our contact person Ute Penzel from ELM is very connected to the project and has lived in India for many years. During my on-site visit she is always at my side to get more insights into the everyday life of the girls.
The position of the woman in India
As a female board member of the foundation, it is important to me to shed light on the topic of women´s standing in Indian society. We have all heard the alarming numbers of rejected, raped and aborted girls in India. Through conversations with the girls and with those responsible for offering them a better life, I learn about many individual fates during the days on site. Those fates are the reason why we support those who need our help most urgently in the PATRIZIA Child Care.
Welcome party with more than 200 guests
Our reception is overwhelming: girls standing in line, little flags and thundering applause await Ute Penzel and me upon our arrival at the girls’ home. The home´s director Katherinal Punithavathy warmly welcomes us. In the large meeting room I officially welcome the girls and explain to them how we at the PATRIZIA Children Foundation are “building the future together” worldwide. Someone must have given away the information that it is my birthday, as this is followed by a huge birthday cake, and I receive a sari as present. I am deeply moved by so much consideration and warmth!
We cut the cake into numerous small pieces and distribute them diligently to make everyone happy. After the official part, the girls gather around me and overwhelm me with questions. We communicate in English, and with hands and feet – it works out beautifully.
From school attendance to crocodiles and nail polish
On the next day we have the opportunity to visit the children at school and learn what is currently on the curriculum. Afterwards we eat together in the big kitchen of the dormitory. I get to know Indian cuisine in all its diversity. The girls’ nutrition is primarily vegetarian, once a week they get fish or meat. As common in India, we all eat with our right hand.
It is important for the PATRIZIA Children Foundation to dive into the everyday life of the girls. So, I use my spare time in the afternoon to play with them on the big square near the dormitory. Here, I learn that “Brennball” is called “Crocodile” in India and that many games are popular across different cultures and countries. Topics like nail polish and jewelry also come up, but as a mother of three boys perhaps I am not the best qualified to advice girls on that.
The opening day of the 17th PATRIZIA Children Center starts with happiness ritual
Following an Indian ritual we being at sunrise: Milk is cooked in a traditional pot until it boils over and refined with numerous spices to bring luck to the opening of the house. The pot is then painted and decorated with flowers.
From 5 o’clock in the morning, many helpers peeled the ingredients for the evening meal in the courtyard of the girls’ home: Peas, beans and bean-like “drum sticks” are processed into various sauces and dips to be eaten later from traditional banana leaves with rice. The official opening begins with numerous guests from the region, representatives of the local Tamil Church and the responsible administrator. The girls perform cheerful dances to common songs, followed by several speeches. In mine I emphasize the positive signal of the opening for the girls and the importance of investing into their future.
The snowball effect triggered by the new building of the dormitory demonstrates what help can achieve in the local community: The girls’ home was given a new outer wall, equipment for the playground and plants for the garden.
This will encourage the girls to truly live something they have already been able to teach me: It is not solely the circumstances that decide whether your life is good or bad, but the attitude. And in Porayar the attitude is optimistic and positive – this is my conclusion from this journey.