IMRC’s first 5K “virtual” Run/Walk
Alhamdulillah, a success!
80 participants joined for this virtual walk/run. We had participants from all across the US and as far as the UK too! Proceeds from the virtual run/walk will assist in building a home for a widow and supporting an orphanage in Mumbai. Learn more about these projects below!
A widow stands with her daughter overlooking a small piece of land they own in Chhatra Disctrict of Jharkand, North India. The father, main breadearner, has passed away leaving these two grieving members in a desperate situation without income. They’re currently staying with relatives, but their stay is now overdue and have been asked to leave. With immense poverty and illiteracy, they have no where to go nor earn for themselves.
Written by Aalia Shaikh
Entering the orphanage from the busy street outside will make anyone appreciate the analogy of its name. Ensconced in a 3-bedroom apartment off a busy thoroughfare, facing a traffic bridge, this place is an abode to little children ranging in age from 3 to 11. When you enter the house, there is a quiet calm and peace that greets you, just like the protection offered to babies inside a womb. The children are all within the many rooms, preparing their lessons, praying, or resting.
The idea of starting this orphanage came to two women students of Qur’an during their trips to orphanages in their locality in 2015. They sent food and other supplies frequently to local mosques and boarding houses for orphans but on their visits, they found that the supplies hardly reached the children. Monetary payments too were usually pocketed by the caretakers and very seldom used for the children’s needs. Apart from food, clothing, and shelter, a basic requirement which the founders found lacking in these shelters was education. “One of the most important lessons we learn in our Qur’anic studies is that of ‘ilm – knowledge,” one founding member, wishing to be anonymous, states. They found that children in these traditional shelters were only taught the Qur’an, which is appreciable, but they had no education. They were not prepared to live in the real world. “We made arrangements to send a tutor to one of the orphanages so that the children learn some practical knowledge as well,” she informs further.
However, the same practice of taking funds but not fulfilling its purpose was discovered here as well. On visiting another orphanage where they sent money for tutors, they found that the person hired for teaching the children could not even explain class 5 topics to them. Tired of the greed and incompetence of people at the helm, the two friends decided to start their own shelter for orphan and needy children. It came across as a risky and foolhardy venture to people they sought advice from, but their Qur’an teacher, who they revere, encouraged them to embark on this noble
“We approached people for funds but many were averse to helping us, having no faith in our capabilities,” one member says with a smile. Not deterred by naysayers, the women approached other female students in their class and found encouragement. Women who came to learn the Qur’an came together and amassed funds from their own savings. Some brought out money they had gathered through months of pocket money savings, one of them going to the extent of selling off personal jewelry. However, seeing their zeal and commitment towards these children, some other supporters came forward with monetary help.
In this manner, the initial funds of leasing property to provide shelter for children were collected. Now came the task of getting children. The area that the women live in is surrounded by slums where the living conditions are abysmal. Even when children have parents, it is seen that the fathers are given to drinking and neglect. Some children came from abusive households, and some were ready to be trafficked.
Currently, the number of children housed here totals ten. These children are taken in, trained in sanitary hygiene, and given proper nutrition and education. However, this is not as easy as it sounds.
“One of the children who lives here had the habit of eating dirt and feces when we brought him in,” a member states. It took considerable time and effort to cure him of these habits. However, now the child is recovering and healthy, participating with the other kids in all the normal activities of the household.
Another girl child from the nearby slums had an absent father, while her mother had died in childbirth. Kind neighbors would take her in during the day and feed her, but as she was growing older, there was the threat of sexual abuse from others in the locality. The father would come home
from time to time but paid attention to his daughter only when he saw in her a chance to make money. The girl’s maternal grandfather came to know that the father had taken her away to be sold off. The grandfather rescued the girl and brought her to this orphanage, where she has been living since.
It is such children who have found care and shelter here. The idea is to keep these children in the house and educate them until they can be admitted to a training college or institute where they can get boarding and lodging and graduate from there with degrees, so that they may become self-sufficient and earning members of society.
There is a fixed routine the children follow, even in the middle of a pandemic. All children of school-going age are enrolled in English medium convent schools. Their classes are held regularly and they even go out for picnics, observing social distance norms of course. Their diet is planned in consultation with a nutritionist.
The children themselves seem happy and bold. They do not fear visitors and are prompt to rattle off rhymes as well as verses from the Qur’an on being requested to recite something. All the members who are present there treat them fondly. “Whenever I pray, I ask Allah to protect these children along with my own. My son even gets jealous,” a member says with a laugh, “but I explain to him that these children are our own.”
The members’ commitment and love for the children extends beyond words. Being homemakers and daughters, they have responsibilities towards their own families. Some members have had to face a bit of struggle at the domestic front as well when they had to divide their time between their homestead and the orphanage. How do they juggle these responsibilities? “It is indeed difficult, but nothing worth doing is easy,” one of them informs. She further states, “I have made a pact with my husband. I will complete all my household chores in the day and visit the orphanage in the afternoon. What I do once all my housework commitments are fulfilled is my prerogative. And I do it for the sake of these children and for Allah.”
Every day, at least 2 members of the orphanage visit personally and take stock of the food, classes, playtime, entertainment, and religious education of the children. Even the helpers who are kept on full-time duty to look after the children are destitute women who live in the house along with their own kids. All the rooms are fitted with CCTV cameras and there is 24/7 internet connection in the house. Members have an understanding with a local hospital close by which provides timely care for children and staff.
It is truly one of the best orphanages and homes for children in need. However, lack of funds may prove to be a detriment in providing quality care and shelter to these children. A local Samaritan had taken the responsibility of meeting the rent of the house. However, because of business losses during the pandemic, members have been informed that they will have to take care of rent themselves from the end of this year.
“I have stopped going to malls and buying things for myself to save money for my Womb Foundation children,” one of the members informs with worry for future quite visible in her eyes. The cost of running the orphanage for these 10 children, which includes house rent, all the children’s school fees, expenses for groceries, milk, clothes, medicines, and other miscellaneous expenses comes up to $1500 per month. Additionally, the staff of caretakers also have to be paid their salaries. Members of the Orphanage Foundation do not take any monetary compensation for their services. If timely aid is not provided, the situation will become dire. Given the zeal and commitment of the members, they are sure to find a way to keep their children sheltered and well fed. But as members of this society, we are responsible for these destitute children as well. As it is rightly said, it takes a village to raise a child. Members of the orphanage foundation are doing their bit. They just need a little help from us.