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A hand of help for the helpless

A motley crew of doctors, government servants and professionals is working with one aim — to build an orphanage for destitute children. But as land and funds are not forthcoming just yet, they occupy themselves with helping out other NGOs with their time, money and effort.

Unmesh Foundation started off in 1998 at the initiative of a handful of government employees. Bratati Mukherjee, a commissioner of income-tax (appeals) is one of them. “We all have our careers, so there are time constraints. But in the weekend, we lend a hand. We are doing what we can, although the orphanage is still a distant dream. When we began, not everyone believed we could do much. But we have come a long way since,” says Mukherjee, who has also enlisted her husband in the ranks.

In the past five years, the 24 members — with help from willing volunteers — have organised and taken part in a variety of programmes for children, the elderly and the physically and mentally challenged. Recently, some of the Foundation members cooked a mutton meal for the young inmates of an orphanage in Rajpur, a luxury they had not enjoyed for “over 20 years”. They also frequently buy clothes and organise medical check-ups for the kids.

The routine of the foundation members is marked by similar activities at different addresses. At Anandalok, in Barasat, a home for the mentally challenged, they work to provide the inmates with food and clothes. Another day, it’s a sit-and-draw contest for the children. On another, they are busy interacting with the inhabitants of an old-age home in Rajpur, run by the Mahila Seva Samity. The return, says Mukherjee, is the sense of satisfaction in time well-spent.

Free medical camps are a regular feature of the Foundation, with the doctors chipping in, be it at Udbhas, the open-air school at the Lakes, The Refuge, an orphanage at Bowbazar, or family planning and mother-and-child health workshops in villages in North and South 24-Parganas. The Foundation also has a ‘limbs for kids’ sponsorship programme, to help those who can’t afford the expensive procedure.

The members are particularly proud of the nine visually-impaired and financially-challenged students of Jadavpur University that the Foundation sponsors. The Foundation has taken care of their education since its inception. Seven of them are now completing their post-graduation at the university while two have passed out.

“We do little things to get the members motivated and keep things moving,” says Gaur Roychowdhury, a gynaecologist and member of the Foundation.

“But our aim is still the orphanage,” members chorus. Mukherjee states that the home will provide employment to those who have difficulty in finding jobs elsewhere — “the nine visually-impaired students we are sponsoring, for instance. We will train them to run the home”.

Until that happens, the members are determined to carry on their work to “help those who can’t help themselves”.

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