Sharana – Fonds du Coeur
Sharana is a sustainable development organisation whose aim is to provide individuals with the means to become self-sufficient.
It is active within underprivileged communities in the Pondicherry area and undertakes development programs in the economical, educational, social and health fields.
It facilitates the access to schooling through sponsorship, the access to jobs through training and to project funding through microcredit.
Even though Sharana has established partnerships with Sharana France in order to finance its actions, all the projects there have been launched and run by the Indian team.
Sharana is the brainchild of Rajkala. After obtaining a Master degree in Social Sciences in Madras (Chennai), Rajkala settled in Pondicherry and founded the non-profit organisation in 2000. She is still its President.
However, 2015 was a particularly difficult year. Scarce funding together with a dramatic raise in expenses (rents, school manuals and stationery) forced the organisation to interrupt 6 of their programs.
Sharana France was able to generously support many of the remaining programs but the future situation remains worrying.
As for us, we were particularly interested in one of their projects:
The creation of a touring library in order to bring the realm of books to children in isolated village so as to provide them with the enjoyment of reading, an essential key to acquire knowledge and intellectual autonomy.
Our visit to the Sharana charity organisation in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, on 25 January 2016.
Unlike the Indianostrum theatre, which is located in what is locally known as “the white district”, the path to the Sharana organisation led us, at dawn, to the Tamil district of the city. This is a busy district, full of school children running all around the tiny, congested and noisy streets.
Before we could meet Rajkala, its founder, we walked through the various floors and corridors covered with photographs of past and present projects and children’s drawings.
We instantly were touched and moved by their “Street and Slum” project, a shelter open to children from the slums.
Upon arrival, Rajkala explained how, indeed, it is important to support these children that have been abandoned to the streets, often victims of sexual abuse and with no other prospect than prostitution or crime.
Indeed, the major problem of this very poor population is alcoholism, as much for parents as for children themselves, often starting to work very early in life in order to bring an extra income to the household.
In fact, these children are not orphans and another difficult task Rajkala has set for herself and her team is to get mothers involved in the education and the well-being of their kids. A few initial attempts were made to help young prostitutes by using micro-credit but they were hard to implement and better alternatives are still to be found…
Around this project, Rajkala has joined forces with Fonds du Cœur, a foundation set up by Nathalie Payraudeau, a French woman who fell in love with Pondicherry 10 years ago.
Luckily for us, she was visiting that very day !
We were therefore able to ask about all the extra details and enquire about how to support this project through a donation; We had to be practical about this!
Thanks to her website, it all became simpler for us as much as for Rajkala: individual or collective sponsorship schemes, information, IBAN, printable receipts …
Thanks to all the support, the Gayatri House has become a shelter, a hub for education, relaxation and art therapy (through drawing and music) for all these small children.
Open every day, it can welcome up to 60 children and offer 60 meals.
Permanent and voluntary social workers divide their time between classes and games;
On Sundays, the house also opens its doors to older children.
Lastly, every evening between 4:00pm and 5:30pm, the little bus from Gayatri goes around a poor district to bring books, healthcare, medicines and various other resources there.
On the day of our visit, we met some children who were resting, others were applied and working with their school mistress.
Then came lunch time, all the kids gathered in the largest room; time to count; quietness settled in with the expectation of a nice hot meal.
That Monday, 54 meals were distributed.
We left, moved and delighted to have met and helped them with an initial donation of €700, which we shall turn into a future yearly donation.
Fondsducoeur : http://www.fondsducoeur.fr