In Odakadu, it is taking a village to raise two kids
Humanity took centre stage at Odakadu hamlet as the villagers volunteered to offer financial support to the grandmother to raise the children after their parents left them.
CHENNAI: Kousalya and Karthi walked side by side through a dusty lane of Odakadu hamlet as their grandma Vasanthi dawdled behind them, mumbling something about their dirty and unkempt uniforms, and occasionally heaving a sigh or two of some inexplicable emotion. It was a Friday and Kousalya couldn’t wait to get home, get changed and stroll out with the akkas who had agreed to take her out for snacks that day. Karthi can tag along too, but only if he gets rid of his grumpiness, she retorted as Vasanthi kept asking the children to slow down.
Kousalya and Karthi, studying in Class 6 and Class 8, loved the akkas and annas who take them out on most weekends, play with them and buy them food. They are volunteers working with the Village-Level Protection Committee in Thoranavavi village of Perundurai block, which consists of villagers, NGOs and government officials. They have been working towards a unified goal – to ensure no child from the village is left behind in the race called life.
Vasanthi (60) has been caring for the two children ever since their parents left the village following a disagreement between them. But in a huge relief for Vasanthi, the committee, formed by the village administration in 2017, has been of great help in the children’s upbringing.
The committee has been conducting regular meetings in the village with guidance and assistance from NGOs, and taking steps to ensure a bright future for the two children. In its initial stages, the committee focused on ensuring they get their community certificates, government-provided health mix, and safe travel to school.
Jayashree, a member of the Women’s Organisation in Rural Development (WORD), a Namakkal based NGO, says they knew that the children were being raised by their grandmother. “Vasanthi was struggling to make ends meet with the meagre wages she earned from doing agricultural work, which too was irregular. When we heard about it, we decided to step in and help the children with their education and other needs,” she adds.
Initially, the committee provided them with clothes and educational assistance. But as time went by, they realised that was not enough, and wanted to do more to secure the children’s future, especially Kousalya’s. KK Thangavelu, the Village Administrative Officer says at first, they wanted Vasanthi to get some financial help and ensured she receives an old age pension.
“About a month back, we deposited Rs 35,000 under Kousalya’s name in a post office scheme to help her with higher studies. While the major contributors of the fund were the government and elected officials, the general public was also kind enough to pitch in whatever they could when they heard about the initiative,” he adds.
Humanity took centre stage at Odakadu hamlet as the villagers volunteered to offer financial support to the grandmother to raise the children. Instead of limiting themselves to doing the bare minimum, the villagers frequented this humble household and even began taking the children outside and engaging with them.
“Karthi used to be stubborn earlier. However, by engaging with him frequently, and showing him care and affection, he has changed a lot. Both Kousalya and Karthi are now studying well and are happy. This model of support system, wherein villagers take care of children in need of help, must be implemented in all villages,” says Jayashree.
Meanwhile, Vasanthi expresses gratitude and happiness over the villagers’ initiative to help the family. “After my daughter and her husband left, I was struggling to raise the children. I was also worried about what would happen to them when I’m no more. But the villagers have given me hope. They have taken great steps to make our lives easier and make us feel we belong here. I am happy that my grandchildren are growing up in such an environment,” she adds.
(Edited by Lisa Anthony)