The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Where nowhere children have a hope
- ‘Father’ of 70 kids in slog-and-sacrifice crusade to give them a feel of home

Thierry is a 39-year-old Frenchman living for 13 years in Calcutta and the “father” of around 70 children, all of whom live in his house. His youngest “son” is seven months old and his oldest 25 years. He is in charge of New Light, an NGO that supports orphans and abused children living in the train stations of the city.

When he was 25, Thierry settled on Sudder Street and joined Mother Teresa. But he soon left the institution, as he thought the Sisters favoured “the quantity of children over the quality of their action” on them. “Their work is too superficial and not effective,” he claims, while admitting that he “didn’t fit in with the religious ideology of the foundation”. He turned his back on the missionaries and decided to do it his own way.

Two main principles drive Thierry: respect of individual identity and a long-term involvement with his kids. On the one hand, he receives with no distinction Hindu, Muslim or Christian children. He accepts their beliefs, and is against conversion. His French girlfriend Coryne confessed that once “he got furious when he learnt that a girl became Muslim to marry”.

Thierry’s Lake Gardens house is also a school, where English or computer courses are offered, because his most precious aim is to see all his children settled. Some of them have been hired in Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates or Dubai. One of them is opening an institution for kids on the outskirts of the city, following in the footsteps of his ‘father’.

“I want them to get the feel of being part of a family,” says Thierry. This is reflected in his house, where everything is simple but tasteful. Walls are painted in white and red, the rooms are clean, and the floor is tiled. As Thierry is a great fan of the movie Moulin Rouge, there are lots of posters of leading lady Nicole Kidman.

The feeling is warm, the atmosphere joyous. Children are playing cricket in the backyard, and a dancing competition is on. Some of the kids groove like real Bollywood movie stars. The ambience turns even more cheerful with the visit of Thierry's girlfriend and her two daughters. This young lady is promoting the NGO in France.

Yet Thierry's work has not been easy. It has involved a lot of slog and sacrifice. The tide turned two years ago, when he received the financial support of a Spanish NGO, Global Humanitaria. This has allowed him to diversify his action — starting to fight paedophilia in Cambodia, even as he gives some nowhere children in Calcutta the hope of a better and brighter tomorrow.

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