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 slightly 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 should not have anybody to take care of them, it’s fundamental training, dignified life, and a safe future.
Such is the case for a number of kids in Puducherry, for whom ‘Alice’ has created a type 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 baby who wants a very good training and life.
Take, for instance, seven-year-old Subash* (title modified). His life included begging every day and consuming no matter he acquired as alms. His mother and father had been ragpickers and relied on him to gather cash.
In 2001, Alice took him below her wing and remodeled his life. Immediately, 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 main faculty, 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 good friend’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 mentioned 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 mentioned no, she began yelling and beating him,” Alice recollects to The Higher India.
However the boy insisted that he go along with Alice, and the remainder, as they are saying, is historical past. Due to him, she discovered her life’s objective, she says. After he got here to her home, he introduced alongside two extra pals. Alice helped them get a fundamental training and vocational coaching.
“Immediately, that boy’s daughter — my granddaughter — is pursuing her closing 12 months in BSc Nursing. One other grandson is a state hockey participant in Tamil Nadu,” says Alice as she beams with delight.
Occupied with social work since she was a young person, Alice was concerned within the whole literacy programme in Puducherry whilst a pupil.
“I used to be accountable for sure areas on the town and slums. A lot of the mother and father we noticed had been alcoholics and their kids had been ragpickers. They had been depending on their kids for meals and cash. I all the time knew I needed 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 faculties 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 houses, we additionally began our personal main faculty. Immediately, we’re totally outfitted to assist them with their publish 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 further funding coming from Alice and well-wishers for provisions.
‘My largest victory is their success’
Initially, getting kids to their residence was a problem, however due to modifications in authorities insurance policies, it has grow to be simpler, she says.
“At first, I’d be on the roads to search out these kids. It was additionally powerful convincing the mother and father. However now, folks know of us and so they ship their kids to us. It has grow to be simpler up to now 10-15 years. The federal government can also be extra conscious, with the Youngster Welfare Committee (CWC) and juvenile justice legislation,” provides Alice.
However even at the moment, getting some kids, like these from tribal communities, stays difficult.
“Some mother and father take their kids to work in brick kilns or for sugarcane reducing. My focus now’s on such kids. For kids whose mother and father don’t cooperate, we additionally supply residence education and make them full their training 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 after they received married.
As for what Alice means to the youngsters, Balaji, who has been related to Udhavi Karangal since he was a toddler, 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 below her wing. Immediately, I’m an engineer working as a software program developer in Chennai.”
The truth is, most of the kids, who Alice says are like her personal, are engineers, nurses, paramedical employees, musicians, and social employees. “Considered one of my kids accomplished MPhil and MSW and is working as a senior baby counsellor in our residence. One other one did MSc Med and is the principal at my faculty. Their vibrant future is my largest victory. They can give a very good life to the subsequent era,” she says.
Edited by Divya Sethu