Special to The NEWS
And a haven it is.
It is early evening. Darkness comes early in southern India and with it peace and quiet settles over this tropical countryside and the Child Haven Home.
Living at this home in Kaliampoondi are about 250 children and between 40 to 50 women. The destitute elderly, who have also been welcomed into this home, have already gone to rest for the night. The children are either playing quiet games, doing their lessons, talking quietly, or just sitting, enjoying the evening absorbed in their own thoughts.
In the morning, the children and women get up at sunrise. The children do exercises on the rooftop of one of the buildings.
On a weekday, they dress in their school uniforms, the older girls helping the younger ones with hair grooming and braiding. Children with physical handicaps are helped by the other youngsters — truly like a big family. All this is supervised by the women, who are happy to have found a place of refuge in the Child Haven home. After breakfast the kids are off to the elementary and high school. The older ones who opted for college and are sponsored by generous donors, head for the bus to the nearest college. The kindergarten children have their classes in the home.
During the day, the women clean the quarters, clean rice and get vegetables ready for the next meal. There is always much to be done, but they also find time for relaxation and socializing while enjoying a cup of hot chai with fresh milk from the cows.
When the children arrive home from school, just like children anywhere else, they need to spend their energy and have lots of noisy fun playing games in the compound. Then it is assembly and time for singing songs before dinner, until the peace and quiet of the evening sets in again.
The first Child Haven home opened in 1985 by those remarkable humanitarians, Bonnie and Fred Cappuccino from Ontario. Although they themselves didn’t want a large family — just two children as the world was already overcrowded, they found that the world was also full of needy kids. So, they adopted 19 of them — and that was just the beginning.
Child Haven International was incorporated that year and now has nine homes: six in India, and one each in Nepal, Bangladesh and Tibet, supporting over 1,300 children, 150 women and 50 seniors who would otherwise be destitute. The children receive proper nourishment, an education, medical care, and a loving and nurturing home. The Homes follow the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, in which girls and boys are treated equally, respecting the heritage of each child, without regard to race, caste, colour, religion or culture. In keeping with the Gandhian philosophy, Child Haven is committed to improving the conditions of women, through direct employment, education, legal aid and training.
The Cappuccino’s are the recipients of the Governor General award. Child Haven is a registered charity in Canada, the U.S. and India.
Fred and Bonnie Cappuccino will be at the upcoming 21st annual Child Haven fundraising dinner Oct. 16 at the Parksville Community Centre from 6-9 p.m. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. This event features an Indian dinner, a variety of entertainment, marketplace and silent auction.
Tickets are $25/adults and $10/children 12 and under. They can be purchased at Fireside Books or Amrikkos in Parksville or Arbutus Fashions in Qualicum Beach. For more information or to purchase tickets online visit www.childhaven.ca.