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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Inspiration-How an Old Age Home Is Fueling the Educational Dreams of Needy Children.



They may not have much for themselves but that hasn’t stopped the residents of Anandam Old Age Home in Chennai from giving back to society in every way they can. Here’s their inspiring story.
The twinkle in her eyes brightens and a smile plays on her lips as the elderly woman sees the students sitting around her with open books and unwavering concentration. The elderly woman is their teacher and one of the residents of the Anandam Trust’s Old Age Home at Gangai Nagar in Kallikuppam, Chennai. The students are poor, deserving children from the vicinity, who require extra coaching, and the venue is the free Education Centre run by the trust. This is the story of the senior citizens from this old age home, who may have come from needy backgrounds themselves but believe in sharing their knowledge, skill and effort with those who need it the most.


They are like the grandchildren that we don’t have,” says Mrs. Savitri about the children she teaches. She had been a teacher before coming to Anandam as a resident. “When a child who used to score around 30%, scores about 70% to 90%, the sense of love, satisfaction and achievement that we experience cannot be described in words. Some of them even top the class,” she says with a touch of pride. 

“These children are not only showing immense progress, but are also developing a grandparent-grandchild like bond with their teachers,” says Bhageerathy Ramamurthy, Founder Trustee of Anandam. “The idea to start this Education Centre came from our resident, Mrs. V.Parvati, lovingly called Aachi amma, who expressed a wish to coach young children, as a means of giving back in some way to society.” 
Parvati or Aachi amma, a trained former teacher, happily exclaims about the direction the Education Centre has taken: “From seven students, the number has now increased to 150!”
 They are also given nutritious snacks and drinks, so that they do not start their classes on an empty stomach.
The Anandam Old Age Home is unique in many aspects. The construction of its present premises began in April 2005 with 60 women volunteers executing a spectacular Kolam (rangoli) patterned as a Kancheepuram silk saree and covering an area of 9320 sq.ft. The Rangoli won a place in the Guinness Book of World Records and brought much needed attention to the efforts of the trust.

“Anandam is the culmination of our vision to provide a completely free home for destitute and helpless senior citizens,” says Bhageerathy. “All the residents neither have children to take care of them, nor any source of income.”

In 2015, when parts of Chennai witnessed devastating floods, the residents wanted to do whatever they could for the stranded people. They cooked, packed and distributed 1500 food packets, everyday for 12 days, to the flood affected areas. Recognising their efforts for flood relief, the senior citizens were given the Real Heroes 2016 Award by Adding Smiles Media Ltd.

Apart from their zeal for social work, they also believe in staying active. Everything in this old age home is managed by them with enthusiasm, including jobs like cooking..We are trying to fulfill all their long standing wishes and have arranged for music, stitching and yoga classes apart from developing a garden in our own premises,” says Bhageerathy, who was named the Best Social Worker by the Department of Social Service and Noon Meals Scheme of Tamil Nadu, in 2012.“Our residents are our strength,” Bhageerathy says. “They are old. They have no one to call their own. But they live here like a big joint family. Their love and affection can be seen and experienced by everyone who visits our home.”

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