“A little happiness today, a little hope for tomorrow” is the catchphrase for the unprepossessing building situated opposite the Indiranagar RTO. Ashraya, founded in 1982, is a Registered Society, with added recognition from the State government, and the Central Adoption Resource Agency (CARA). Ashraya means “shelter”, and this is exactly what it offers, to different people, from different walks of life.

At present, the staff at Ashraya (numbering 65), are in the process of consolidating their holdings and achievements over the years: the Children’s Home, the mobile crèches, the Women’s Centre, the rural school, and the government Observation Home.

The Children’s Home marked Ashraya’s beginnings, where they provided care with a difference, and continue to do so. It is their belief that long-term institutional care is detrimental to development, and their one aim is to settle the abandoned, orphaned and often, physically challenged children, in safe and secure environments. Tie-ups with Manipal and Indira Gandhi Hospitals ensure that the best medical facilities are made available to these children.

A paediatrician makes weekly visits to care for the babies at the shelter, while trained volunteers work and play with the older ones. Rigorous evaluation and intensive counselling procedures, in accordance with national adoption laws, means that every child is guaranteed a good home. In 2002 alone, 40 lost children were reunited with their parents, and 25 children were adopted, out of which four had special needs.

Ashraya started its mobile crèche service in 1983, almost immediately after the Children’s Home. Its target: migrant labour, and large construction sites, where the number of children climbs from 25. Here, trained crèche workers see to the children’s educational and nutritional needs; there are regular health check-ups, and the attempt at long-term intervention in the form of parent meetings and health awareness. There is no conflict of interest; the larger construction companies have often contacted Ashraya to form a crèche, in accordance with labour laws. Presently, Ashraya runs four crèches, in Shivajinagar, K.R. Road, Jayanagar, and Hebbal.

TARA, Ashraya’s centre for women, is situated beyond the Peenya industrial belt; its exact location is secret, confidentiality and the women’s safety coming first. Set up in 1996, TARA offers shelter to destitute, battered, and single mothers, with a focused approach. The women are offered counselling, job placements, medical care and legal assistance. TARA also has a crèche, so that the unwed mothers who go there can choose between keeping their child and giving it up for adoption.

Neel Bagh, a school in Madanapalli, Andhra Pradesh, was the brainchild of David Horsburgh, teacher and educator. Ashraya bought it over in 1994.

As a member of the Home Committee, Ashraya plays an important role in the government’s Observation Home, in an endeavour to improve the quality of living, including better facilities and management. They also work closely with the police and Child Helpline, to counsel and return lost children in the city.

Working with the city’s adoption agencies, interacting with Central Adoption Resource Agency CARA and the VCA, women’s organisations that don’t have shelters, government organisations to de-institutionalise children, and dispel myths and misconceptions surrounding adoption, gives “ashraya” a completely new meaning.

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