By Winter Johnson
There are few people who know more about the struggles that orphans in India face other than Jolly Geevarghese, programme manager for the Asharan Orphanage in New Delhi. Working for the Asharan Orphanage for 22 years, Jolly wears many hats – managing the home, raising funds, liaising with local authorities, facilitating adoptions, and giving cuddles to the children under her care. According to Jolly, children on the streets in India are easy prey for abusers, drug addicts, beggars’ schemes or even street animals. An abandoned infant or a premature baby could die or become handicapped due to a lack of medical care and oxygen.
We spoke to Jolly to learn more about her work at the orphanage.
HWW: What were you doing before you started working for the Asharan Orphanage, which is managed by the HOPE Foundation?
Jolly: I have been working with the HOPE Foundation since it started in 1993; my husband Saji and I were the first HOPE Foundation employees. Our work started with bandaging and caring for the leprosy patients in the Village of HOPE. After that, Saji and I led various HOPE Foundation projects in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore before joining the Asharan Orphanage. Before joining the HOPE Foundation, I was working as a staff nurse in the Neurosurgical ICU of a government-run hospital.
I left nursing to care for the needy, which included the leprosy patients in the slums and on the roads. They had no one to care for them.
HWW: What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
Jolly: It is sad to see the crime small children face on the streets when their family is not a secure place for them. It is also sad to see the damage caused to the infants due to unsafe abandonment. And the biggest challenge my children in the orphanage face is longing for a family.
HWW: You said that it’s harder for the children to be adopted after 6 years of age. Why is this?
Jolly: The Government allows children below 18 years of age to be adopted. Children in the Specialized Adoption Agencies (SAAs) like Asharan only take children who are six years of age and younger. They are transferred to other Child Care Institutions (CCIs) after the age of 6 years. These CCIs are linked with SAAs for the purpose of adoption. But few children above 5 years old get adopted as the prospective parents prefer to adopt infants and toddlers.
There is a general conception that the adjustment and bonding is easier with infants than with older children; the older children may come with their past baggage, etc. Many parents desire to be part of the child’s life from infancy. Therefore, many older kids grow up in the CCIs.
HWW: What would you like people to know about the Asharan Orphanage?
Jolly: To get the children in our care to a normal life medically, emotionally, and physically is a 24/7 job, and it’s an expensive one. In addition to the medical professionals, therapists and teachers that work with us, we have caregivers and nurses who work with these children 24/7. The staff works on three different shifts to watch over the children and provide necessary care.
It is worth supporting these children now. Though their life may seem stuck in the initial stages, they will grow strong roots and will shoot up like Chinese bamboo with the help you provide them now. Without your help, we cannot achieve this victory for the children. So, let’s do it together.