When you are in the adoption field, placing a healthy child with a
couple is relatively easy. But try placing a challenged child —
mentally or physically — and you will discover as Mary Paul did way
back in 1990 and even today, that it is a frustrating exercise.
So what did she do? “I decided that I would set up a home for
challenged children who could not go into adoption.” That’s easier said
than done. Where to find the kids and the funds? But determination and
prayer led Mary to Aunty Cornelius who was looking after three
challenged children and wanted to transfer the kids to someone who
could take care of them. The Happy Home for Spastics and other disabled
was set up under Kutumba (the Sanskrit word Kutumba for family).
A dream com true
Today Kutumba is home, not just to physically challenged under-15
children. For the last 15 years, it has become a home away from home
for physically challenged girls who come to the city to make a career.
NGOs in Bangalore and in other rural areas of Karnataka sometimes refer
the girls to Kutumba.
“The girls in their villages are forced to lead secluded lives
because their families are ashamed of their disability. So with a lot
of counselling they take the courage to come to Bangalore to learn a
trade or vocation and thereafter find employment. But they have no
accommodation as they cannot afford to pay the rent or hostel fee.” So
Kutumba provides them with a home, absolutely free, under the guidance
of a house mother. The girls go to study, work or vocational training
centres and return in the evening to a family atmosphere, as is in
every other home. They are encouraged to find suitable jobs or are
placed in various organisations through Kutumba's networks. When they
are financially stable, they move out and are encouraged to bring in a
family member to stay with them.
Says Mary: “This group foster care gives the girls a permanent home
and a stable environment. Kutumba’s family-like structure is formed by
four basic principles – mother, siblings, house and village. Each
family has a home of its own, and its members are the children and
their mother who creates strong and dependable relationships and gives
the children a safe and loving home.
This dream of Mary Paul has already taken shape. Says Mary: “Thanks
to two of our major donors — i-flex solutions and Stichting Geron with
CORDAID in The Netherlands, we have managed to build two of the eight
planned cottages in Doddgubbi, near Kothanur in Bangalore North East.
Each home has a combined living/dining room as the centre of social
life. The familiar atmosphere of a home of their own encourages bonding
within the families and is another important piece in the mosaic that
gives the children a feeling of belonging and shelter.”
Besides just providing the children with a roof over their heads,
Kutumba prepares them to lead lives on their own. “This is essential,
as they must realise that they need to integrate into their local
They’ve broken free
Take for example, Anjamma, who during her three-year training as
draftsman, lived at Kutumba. The nurture and care given at Kutumba
helped her to love herself and others around her, to accept herself
with all the limitations and to be a joy in her surroundings. She,
along with a few friends, realising the difficulties of commuting to
work, has set up a small manufacturing and marketing unit. She has
developed a new set of skills and excels in the creative arts. More
than anything else Anjamma is renewed in her mind and has a healthy
Says Mary: “Her growth over the three years has been remarkable.
Not only did she equip and qualify to work in the world outside, but
grew in and matured into a confident, assured young woman.”
Arjun, one of Kutumba’s early residents, was brought by an
autorickshaw driver when he was about eight-years-old. He was working
in a scooter garage. With the help of the other residents, he started
reading. After a few years he passed his tenth standard. Today, Arjun
has two telephone booths and has employed a physically challenged
person to man one booth while he takes care of the other.
There are several like Arjun and Anjamma who have walked out of the
portals of Kutumba, having carved a future for them. “Rehabilitation
and empowerment of deprived disabled girls through a holistic care and
development programme is our goal. We have plans to enhance our
services like implementing a larger variety of vocational training
programmes, initiate small-scale business ventures with the girls and
provide them with the necessary infrastructure, and any other support
that they might need, set up a special needs school. To make Kutumba a
complete family, we will build six more cottages, so that we can
accommodate at least a hundred girls and include elderly also in our
care.” Kutumba provides respite care from a day to three months, for
families who have physically challenged children. “Respite care
provides time-off for family members who care for someone. Caregiving
is a demanding task, and it is easy to neglect your own health and
well-being when you are involved with your loved one's needs. Respite
care helps care-givers take a break from the daily routine and stress,”
says Mary Paul.
Of course shifting to the new location has brought about a new
challenge — commuting to their special school and places of work is
tough since buses are very few. An imminent need is a vehicle to
transport the children from the village to their places of study and
Mary Paul can be contacted on 9448674035/32952832.