CHENNAI: It is a time for revelry and celebration at The Banyan, an NGO, as seven children of parents with mental illness, from disadvantaged communities, have managed to gain admission into prestigious institutes in the city for graduate and postgraduate courses this year.
“I am really proud,” said an ecstatic and emotional Sagayamary M, co-lead, the Banyan - HANS Foundation Centre for Mental Health and Inclusive Development. “I have seen some of these children from the time they were three- or four-months-old and others who came to us as five- and six-year-olds. I have seen them grow and it gives me tremendous happiness and satisfaction to see what they have achieved today.”
Sagayamary worked on the entire application process with the students who went through not just the entrance exams but also aced the interviews. The students have gained admission to courses in Loyola College, Madras Christian College and Sathyabama University.
“I am really happy,” said Priyanka*, who is all set to pursue BSc in Computer Science. “I want to help and work for people. So, after I finish my BSc, I hope to do a Masters in Psychology. I was always interested in the subject, but watching people at The Banyan work has further fuelled my interest. One of my biggest dreams is to provide a good future to my mother.”
For Shriya*, who is gearing up to do her Masters in Social work, the motive was always to lend a helping hand and work to uplift vulnerable sections of society. However, she has other aspirations too.
“I want to buy a scooter,” said the 21-year-old, when we asked her what material possession she would like. “I also want to buy my own house and a car. But more than anything else, I want to help others like me who probably weren’t as fortunate to have an establishment like The Banyan to back them. It has always given me nothing but the best and I consider myself extremely lucky to be associated with the NGO and to have gained admission in such a great college.”
What is adding to the cheer at The Banyan is the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that will soon be signed with Sathyabama Institute of Science and Technology that will provide four seats to children every year from The Banyan with admission to courses in the college.
“This is path-breaking,” said a representative of The Banyan, while also expressing her gratitude to the other institutions who have provided the children with admission this year. “These children are used to a life of exclusion and being treated differently. When a big institution such as Sathyabama does this, it sets a precedence and helps these children get into the mainstream society. I don’t think the chancellor, Mariazeena Johnson, recognises how much of a difference her generosity will make in these children’s lives.”
The chancellor said that offering free education to four children from The Banyan would go a long way in making the world a better place — something that the institution was committed to.
“It has always been our endeavour to help, raise and empower women because a society that has strong empowered women is a healthy society,” said Mariazeena Johnson, chancellor of Sathyabama Institute of Science and Technology. “As an educational institute, we help students from underprivileged backgrounds with free education, we adopt villages, schools, but all of them seemed like a process of our growth too. But what The Banyan was doing, definitely touched a chord. To help destitute women with mental health issues was so noble that partnering with them in whatever way we could gave us not only happiness but also a sense of pride.”
Present and future
Seven students from The Banyan have gained admission to courses in Loyola College, Madras Christian College and Sathyabama University.
The Banyan will soon sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sathyabama Institute of Science and Technology that will provide four seats to children every year from The Banyan with admission to courses in the college.