The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

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On Sunday 21st September, Robin Radley MBE, the founder of CHIKS, visited St George’s and gave a brief presentation about the charity after the 10.am Eucharist.

David Hodgens was a keen supporter of CHIKS and this is one of the charities towards which donations were invited after his funeral.

The September charity collections have also been in aid of CHIKS.

 Chiks’ boys and girls are enjoying support and total care in  the SW of India – though it has become quite a struggle; while adequate funding has become harder to find, increasing numbers of desperately poor families or single parents are coming to our gates, urging us to care for their often hungry or sick children. There's no Welfare system on hand to help ease the suffering of vast numbers of the population  . . .   or to reduce our own financial burden. Never has Chiks faced such great challenges.  In the early years of working with Sister Mary Mathew (formerly with Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity), the network of support helped us to provide total care and education for a small but steady stream of orphaned or otherwise very needy children taken into Karunanilayam (Home of Mercy).

With two other Homes and many more children plus increasing costs it is so much more demanding today but with the help of supporters and wonderful care from the Homes’ staff, happiness tends to take the place of children’s painful memories, and most of our boys and girls can look forward to one day going on, well prepared, into the world.

We are celebrating 17 years of what has been exhilarating work. That first orphanage is fine in Sister Mary’s hands but where our two ‘Hill Homes’ are concerned (Little Flower and Carmel Matha) ongoing funding uncertainties continue to threaten; we need to ensure that what has been an encouraging story will continue - with Chiks still finding the way to fund many of tomorrow’s neediest children.

Little Flower Mercy Home

We had long recognised great need where this home was concerned and determined that support simply had to be found . . .  Little Flower, in the heart of scenic central Kerala, is dedicated to Mother Teresa and originally opened as a refuge for destitute adults; vulnerable runaway children who arrived seeking shelter and care had to be transferred elsewhere, including to Sr Mary’s home, some hours distant by road.

Then, as we came to hear of increasing numbers of children living rough we arranged to provide for boys and girls at Little Flower. A steady procession of unwanted, runaway or orphaned children, and often others whose families were too poor to provide for them, found their way there. A fine dormitory house was created, to be ceremoniously opened in 2006. The intake mushroomed and many demands accelerated too - from the need for more clothing and food to transport.

However, with these young people soon contentedly settled, we reeled at freshly introduced Government demands for girls and boys to live on separate sites! First thoughts were to buy more land and build a new house for the boys but with land and construction prices rocketing, the scheme was halted . . . until the day, that is, when a considerate landowner offered almost an acre at a very special price. It was enough for us to begin to develop greater self-sufficiency, and to couple with it a plan to convert and enlarge an existing building – giving the 55 older boys in care far more comfort and privacy for study, as well as much enlarged recreation space.

The house is now fully occupied, to everyone’s delight and the boys’ relief. Meanwhile further urgent works include a modern kitchen to meet today’s demands (some 850 meals daily!) and new accommodation for about 40 women with special needs. A medical clinic plus other vital improvements are right now on the drawing board.

With all those children at Little Flower plus about 190 ‘patients’ and staff on-site, the urgency becomes greater by the day.   While a little extra help is provided for Little Flower  from other sources (including some Government grants), Chiks provides most – and we need to ensure that this exhilarating humanitarian work goes on.

Carmel Matha, Santhi Bhavan

Urgent support had been needed for another mountain-region home, too - Carmel Matha, situated in a miserably poor part of agricultural northern Kerala. It formerly existed day to day on loans, crumbs of goodwill, and by faith.   When the project was launched, there was absolutely no regular source of income to provide for the destitute children and young people rescued from streets, railway stations and very much from miserably poor tribal areas.

Run by Brother Joy Daniel, of the street children movement Birds of the Air, Carmel Matha depends on Chiks alone. A little help in kind comes from friends and neighbours, though they are themselves struggling to live in what are fragile circumstances; the farming region is one in which the suicide rate  remains tragically high.

However, the past few years have seen a transformation at the home. Since Chiks decided to create and take on the orphanage costs - and later to buy and invigorate a neglected farm, the future has looked increasingly exciting. Sustainability is the objective and we’re just about on-course.

Having originally raised about 90,000 to secure the 12+ acres of farmland - managed through the Carmel Matha home, faith and resolve have remained strong;  deciding that diversification was the way forward, we introduced dairy farming alongside the cash crops, and we have a comprehensive biogas plant and irrigation system installed. Our cows are happy, too, with a fine cowshed! Those running the home and farm are ready to make personal sacrifices for as long as it takes to succeed - we just need funding to back the will.

So many young lives and hopes are in Chiks’ hands, so there is no time to pause and reflect on the positives across the years. There have been many, and today a combination of supportive friends plus unswerving determination will see current targets met – with more than a little help from our child-sponsorship scheme . . .

• Care to sponsor our Homes and children? Massive increases in costs in India and reduced levels of UK charitable giving unavoidably led to our increasing to 18 pm (216 pa) the sponsorship of the ‘Hill Homes’ and children (introduced at the start of 2013). The figure is still well short of the actual cost of keeping a child (estimated at 285 pa).

Strong bonds have developed between the Homes and many sponsors, a good number of many of whom have travelled out to meet the children;  there are exchanges of letters etc. to everyone’s delight.

Should you wish to know more or have any other questions do please get in touch.

Robin Radley, MBE

www.chickschildrenshomes.co.uk


Autumn Edition 2014

CHICKS - Childrens’ Homes in Kerala State