CUTTACK: Eighteen years back, a mentally-challenged woman Padmini Nayak was found wandering along the Cuttack-Chandbali road near Nischintakoili by members of Parivar, a social organisation. Padmini, aged 30 then, would rarely speak. Malnourished, the woman from Keonjhar was violent, irritable and would cry and scream without any provocation.
Volunteers at Parivar brought her to Jananee Ashram where she has provided treatment and the love and care she craved for. Today, she speaks to all without any hesitance and helps maintain the ashram by cultivating crops and dairy farming. There are 22 other women like Padmini in the ashram who have got a new lease of life and are now able to earn a decent living. Located at Ambilijhari village under Mahishalanda gram panchayat in Tangi-Choudwar block, Jananee Ashram has been rehabilitating such women without any government support since 2001.
Established by a resident of Kolkata Krishna Dey over 9 acre of land, the ashram is currently being managed by its secretary Sanjukta Bharatiya. Two others - Lobhabati Sahoo(50) and Pradipta Parida(40) - are assisting her in managing the ashram after Dey’s death in 2006. While the ashram is located over 2 acre of land, the remaining property is being used for cultivation and dairy farming. In the absence of government support, the funds raised from agriculture and dairy farming is used to fund the ashram.
“Police and members of different voluntary organisations rescue mentally-challenged, destitute women and bring them to our ashram. Here, they are provided treatment by doctors of Mental Health Institute of SCB Medical College and Hospital and as per the advice of doctors, we engage them in different activities like gardening, cooking, cleaning. Because, sitting idle would worsen their mental condition.
The physical work helps them remain healthy and sleep better which aids in mental recovery” said Sanjukta, adding that the inmates are given lessons on personal hygiene and self care. Besides, they also participate in celebration of all festivals and spiritual discourses in the ashram. And after the women recover, the ashram workers trace their family members with the help of local police and reunite them. Since inception, 126 homeless people have been housed and treated at the ashram and 101 of them, have been reunited with their families, said Sanjukta. While the ashram currently has 23 inmates, two more are undergoing treatment at the SCB MCH.