The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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US windfall revives ailing home for kids

The organisation was dying a painful death and the homeless were losing a shelter that had been home to them for many years. Left with no alternative but to close down due to an acute financial crisis and escalating running costs, Free the Children-India (FTC-India), one of Calcutta’s oldest voluntary organisations, which offers a home to destitute children, has received a lifeline — “accidentally” — from an organisation in the US.

Good Samaritans, a charitable organisation based in Minneapolis, was also planning to close down for good, because it couldn’t find a worthy cause to invest in the USA. No one would let Alexandra Crittenden and her team work on the streets of Minneapolis, as the more established organisations were running the show almost everywhere. However, all that changed when Alexandra “accidentally” stumbled upon FTC-India, while scanning the Internet for overseas ventures.

“It was disgusting to pay for projects which we never got to see with our eyes in the US. No one would let me work on the streets for the hapless children, as other organisations seemed to be handling each and every project. All they wanted was our money. They would even drop a thank-you letter after a month and then it was goodbye from their end,” recalled Alexandra, who was in Calcutta recently.

For years, she funded several such projects in the US, but never got the acknowledgement, apart from an occasional “thank you”. Finally she decided to stop all the funding and called a board meeting. “Our member count dwindled and we were really thinking of calling it quits, when some members thought of venturing outside the US,” Alexandra recalled.

Finally, Alexandra sat down to scan the Net and typed ‘NGOs’ in a search engine. Out popped several websites, prominent among them was FTC-India. “We read about the organisation and soon found out how desperate it was for funds. We quickly got in touch and an alliance finally worked out, which has been very satisfying for us,” she added.

For Swapan Mukherjee, chairman of FTC-India, the “unexpected help” could never have come at a better time. “Of late, the dwindling funds would not let us do any work. There was no money for the running costs, including payment of employee salaries and running the boys’ home,” Mukherjee added.

First the Samaritans decided to help FTC by sponsoring the salaries of the cooks, night guards, technical staff and teachers. “Our association with them went off very well and we soon decided to come to Calcutta and pay a visit,” Alexandra said.

She spent all of last week with the children and the workers of FTC. She went to see several projects undertaken by FTC and has now volunteered to take care of the entire administrative costs of running the home, as well as building a new home, exclusively for girls, under the aegis of her new foundation, called Just Money. Alexandra is now scouting for land in the city for setting up the home. “It should be a unique home and we will help FTC get back its lost glory soon,” Alexandra signed off.

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