There are many charities in India and although Amala is not unique we like to think it is a bit special. Amala was founded to help the rural poor especially the children and most of the communities around Amala really are wretchedly poor. The rural poor are not high profile city charities, they often live quiet desperate lives. Most families if they are lucky have one meal a day which consists of a watery vegetable curry (called samba) and if they have a little more money they will add a small amount of lentils or split peas served with cheap rice. If they can find work, most of the population (men and women ) work in the fields and the wages are very poor even if they work from sunup to sunset. This labour is often the only option for them as most are poorly educated and often illiterate. There are primary schools but a lot of villages are too remote for the children to travel to school and often as soon as they are old enough to work many children are taken out of school to earn a few meagre rupees to supplement the families income. Education in some village schools is often poor because the classes very large, a typical size of the classes are usually anywhere from 60 pupils upwards and many girls are not encouraged to go on to secondary school.
Health education has been almost non existent and access to a doctor is difficult as prescription medication must be paid for and as cheap as it may seem to us, if they have next to nothing it is more than they can afford. The majority of the population will have chronic ill health and because of this may not be able to do field work and earn enough money to feed their families, so then their children grow up lacking education, are not fed properly, unable to have the benefit of a doctor if they are ill and so the cycle of deprivation goes on.
The destiny of the people in India is often largely decided by which caste they are born into. The caste system is basically illegal but in practice the custom continues. The low caste or untouchables are now known commonly as “Dalits” meaning oppressed or ground down. Dalits face discrimination in every sphere and are frequently denied basic rights by the police, the judiciary, employers and in education. Add this to the background of chronic ill health and living in the most primitive of conditions you have a recipe for human disaster. It is from this caste that most children in Amala come.
AMALA CHILDREN'S HOME:
In 1994 Amala Children’s Home was founded by Jesudass Raja on a piece of land given to him by his Father who was the headmaster of the school in the village next to Amala Home. Raja is himself is a man of his people and as an educated man had always been aware of the plight of the local people. Raja managed to raise sufficient money in India to build two basic huts made of brick with thatch roofs. These provided, housing, a classroom, and a dormitory for 35 boys and also accommodation for the staff.
In February 1996 Kim Pollit read an article about Amala Children’s Home in an national English newspaper the” Independent” and was moved to provide what help he could. After contacting Raja, Kim visited Amala in the following September and the English side of Amala was founded. Understandably the demand for places grew as word spread about the Amala Home and Kim raised enough money here in England to build separate accommodation to house and educate the poorest girls from the area.
Amala has seen many changes since those early days and each year Amala has changed and improved, we have built a new boy’s home improving and expanding the accommodation to give a home to more boys. We have built a medical centre and to monitor and treat the children we now employ a nurse at Amala. We then built a new kitchen, we also have an excellent housekeeper, Victoria who manages to make the housekeeping go far and still feed all of Amala well.
ST AGNES HIGH SCHOOL AND PRIMARY SCHOOL:
Amala Children’s Home was also Amala school , the children were obtaining good grades and Raja worked hard to obtain the certification and recognition for the high school and then for a primary school. The children were taught in the home, they were taught in cleared sleeping rooms, on the veranda and even under the mango tree. We knew through Raja that this was not at all looked on as satisfactory by the education board and they did give the school some years leeway. However the time came when they insisted that if Amala school wanted to continue, we would have to build a separate school. This in some ways, was The Amala Trusts biggest challenge as we had no idea where such an enormous amount of money was going to come from. We mentioned at the beginning that Amala is special, well lots of other people must think Amala is special too because by the end of 2006 the high school building had started and we had the money to complete the project. The year following we built the primary school but this was not so easy as the world wide recession was being felt in India too and prices of materials rose very quickly and it was a struggle to finish the project and we still need some desks for the pre school children which we can not afford . Because we had new classrooms with room to teach more children and we take non fee paying day scholars from the surrounding areas, often using Amala buses to bring them from surrounding villages. We now educate (at all levels) about 500 children.
The improvements to Amala both large and small are too numerous to write down individually. We have come a long way and it has been lot of hard work both in India and here in England, but most of all it has all been possible by the generosity of many groups and individuals who have given their time and money.
Since 1996 Amala Children’s Home has educated and given a home to children from the poorest of the poor. Orphans , children from large families whose parents cannot work because of illness such as leprosy, children who have been abandoned and may only have one “elderly” grandparent. ( people get old comparatively early in life when they live in abject poverty.) We have had many successes, healthy children who would not have had a chance in life have gone through the education system obtaining qualifications and now have good jobs and a future out of poverty.