One of Holt’s legacy partners in India inaugurates a new childcare facility in Aurangabad.
For over 30 years, Holt has partnered with local leaders and childcare specialists to help care for orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children in India. When Holt staff arrived in India in 1979, one of their first efforts was to help establish a residential childcare facility in Pune, Maharashtra, a state in West India. Here, our new partner agency – Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK) – began providing care for homeless children. Through the years, Holt has found loving families for many children once in care at BSSK, while the staff at BSSK has continued to grow and diversify their services for children and families in need.
Today, BSSK remains a significant part of our history and legacy, and we are so proud of their accomplishments in caring for homeless children.
Earlier this month, BSSK celebrated one of their most recent accomplishments – building a new facility for homeless children in Aurangabad, a city near BSSK’s headquarters in Pune. For several years, BSSK has supported a branch in Aurangabad, but over time conditions of the care facility began to deteriorate. It was also too small for the 25-35 children who typically reside there.
“At BSSK, we believe that the children who come into our care should have a spacious, well-ventilated and comfortable home,” says Roxana Kalyanvala, executive director of BSSK. Thus, she says, they built a new home.
In 2006, Roxana and her staff began looking for a piece of land in Aurangabad for the new childcare facility. They approached the local government to help keep the land purchase at a reasonable cost, and raised funds for any remaining expenses. Finally, they secured a low-cost piece of land through a local industrial development corporation.
“Getting this cleared took several years due to many bureaucratic hurdles,” says Dean Hale, services director for Holt’s India program. “Through sheer determination, tenacity and good persuasion skills, BSSK secured the land and have build a solid building.”
On April 21, 2013, BSSK inaugurated the new Aurangabad center.
“It is airy, spacious, colorful and has space for indoor and outdoor play,” says Roxana. Within the new childcare facility are a neonatal intensive care unit, separate rooms for children according to their age, and a large play therapy room. BSSK is now raising funds to equip the therapy room, and plans to build a Montessori school within the facility at some point as well.
For many years, BSSK has promoted foster care as a more nurturing, family-like alternative to institutional care. Many of the children who enter BSSK’s care do join foster families. BSSK has also allied with the government to grow this alternative care model in India. But foster care is still a relatively new concept, and the need for childcare centers remains.
“We do know that institutional care is not the best option for a child,” says Roxana. “However, foster care is yet developing in India and is not known to many persons.”
Until the day that every child can stay in a loving foster family while waiting to join a permanent family, BSSK will endeavor to provide the best care possible within their child care facilities.
“We had a very cramped place earlier so when the children moved in, the older ones were very excited with the space and ran around with much glee and excitement,” Roxana says of the new Aurangabad facility. “Over the years of working with children in institutional care, we have learned and seen what a difference a facility can make for children.”
The new facility will not only benefit children in care, but children and families in the community as well. As part of their agreement with the city, BSSK will soon build a gymnasium, gathering hall and library on the ground floor – primarily for women and children in the surrounding community. BSSK also supports children living with their families in Aurangabad through an educational sponsorship program that helps cover fees and supplies needed to attend school.
During the inauguration on April 21st, the community came out to show their support for BSSK’s new facility. “It was a memorable and joyous evening and was attended by well wishers, donors, doctors, professionals and adoptive families,” says Roxana. About 450 people attended the event, which included a prayer sung by children in sponsorship and a dance performance by the older children at BSSK.
Roxana and her fellow staff members feel proud of this milestone in the life of BSSK. “We have,” she says, “built a beautiful home for the children who will come into our care.”