In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a younger Alice is bored of sitting by the river together with her sister. She spots a rabbit that appears reasonably totally different and decides to comply with him on a whim. And so she heads down a rabbit gap and arrives in Wonderland.
As kids, all of us who learn the basic by Lewis Carroll dreamt of visiting Wonderland ourselves some day.
However what is that this land? I suppose it relies upon from individual to individual. For me, it’s a fantasy land, however for a lot of kids who don’t have anybody to take care of them, it’s primary schooling, dignified life, and a safe future.
Such is the case for a number of kids in Puducherry, for whom ‘Alice’ has created a kind of ‘wonderland’ for the previous 32 years.
Alice Thomas is a 53-year-old who runs Udhavi Karangal to work in the direction of rehabilitation of youngsters who’ve nowhere to go. These embody these dwelling on the streets, coming from tribal communities, orphans, or any youngster who wants an excellent schooling and life.
Take, for instance, seven-year-old Subash* (identify modified). His life included begging every day and consuming no matter he obtained as alms. His dad and mom have been ragpickers and relied on him to gather cash.
In 2001, Alice took him beneath her wing and remodeled his life. Right now, he’s an engineer working in a MNC.
Subash is one in every of over 150 kids that Alice, who began Udhavi Karangal in 1991, works with. She runs a major college, a boys’ residence, a women’ residence, and a women’ commentary residence in Puducherry.
She started her endeavour when she was solely 21 years previous, and all of it started with an eight-year-old boy.
Discovering her ‘true calling’
“I used to be sitting at my pal’s home and a boy got here begging and asking for meals. I informed him, ‘Why do you need to beg? Include me, I’ll feed you and educate you’. He agreed instantly, however stated that I need to inform my mom. I took him on my cycle and the very first thing his mom requested was, ‘Did you deliver meals?’. When he stated no, she began yelling and beating him,” Alice recollects to The Higher India.
However the boy insisted that he go together with Alice, and the remaining, as they are saying, is historical past. Because of him, she discovered her life’s goal, she says. After he got here to her home, he introduced alongside two extra pals. Alice helped them get a primary schooling and vocational coaching.
“Right now, that boy’s daughter — my granddaughter — is pursuing her last 12 months in BSc Nursing. One other grandson is a state hockey participant in Tamil Nadu,” says Alice as she beams with pleasure.
Fascinated with social work since she was an adolescent, Alice was concerned within the whole literacy programme in Puducherry at the same time as a scholar.
“I used to be in command of sure areas on the town and slums. Many of the dad and mom we noticed have been alcoholics and their kids have been ragpickers. They have been depending on their kids for meals and cash. I all the time knew I wished to assist these kids, however I additionally dreamt of turning into a lawyer like my grandfather. However that small boy confirmed me my true calling,” Alice smiles.
Initially, she would enrol the youngsters in colleges and supply vocational coaching. “However I used to be unable to assist them past Class 10 or 12 initially. Slowly, as we grew and constructed these properties, we additionally began our personal major college. Right now, we’re totally outfitted to assist them with their submit commencement and past,” she says.
When the primary boy got here, Alice rented a spot subsequent to her home. After a 12 months, she says, she shifted them to her guardian’s residence. She later purchased land in Nonankuppam, Puducherry.
Her organisation is authorities funded, with extra funding coming from Alice and well-wishers for provisions.
‘My greatest victory is their success’
Initially, getting kids to their residence was a problem, however due to adjustments in authorities insurance policies, it has turn into simpler, she says.
“To start with, I’d be on the roads to seek out these kids. It was additionally powerful convincing the dad and mom. However now, folks know of us they usually ship their kids to us. It has turn into simpler previously 10-15 years. The federal government can be extra conscious, with the Baby Welfare Committee (CWC) and juvenile justice legislation,” provides Alice.
However even at present, getting some kids, like these from tribal communities, stays difficult.
“Some dad and mom take their kids to work in brick kilns or for sugarcane reducing. My focus now could be on such kids. For kids whose dad and mom don’t cooperate, we additionally supply residence education and make them full their schooling by correspondence,” provides Alice.
Such is her dedication to her kids that she and her husband determined to not have any themselves, as they already had 13 once they acquired married.
As for what Alice means to the youngsters, Balaji, who has been related to Udhavi Karangal since he was a baby, says, “I got here right here in 2002, after I was about seven years previous. It was simply my mom and I, and Alice took us beneath her wing. Right now, I’m an engineer working as a software program developer in Chennai.”
The truth is, lots of the kids, who Alice says are like her personal, are engineers, nurses, paramedical workers, musicians, and social employees. “One in all my kids accomplished MPhil and MSW and is working as a senior youngster counsellor in our residence. One other one did MSc Med and is the principal at my college. Their vibrant future is my greatest victory. They’re able to give an excellent life to the subsequent era,” she says.
Edited by Divya Sethu