Anbalayam – loving home
Anbalayam, in English, means loving home. Anbalayam, located in the rural town of Sirkali is the home for 55 special-needs children. The home was founded in a rundown rental building by Ms. Meerabai Ekambaram, a local resident with a heart as big as it can be. There are more than 10 million special-needs children in India. Most of the children were abandoned by their parents in public places like bus stands, railroad stations and local markets, with the hope that somehow their children will be taken care of. When Mrs. Meerabai founded Anbalayam in 1998 she had picked the children wandering around in the bus stand at Sirkali. Anbalayam’s children have the typical maladies of special-needs children, mental retardation, cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome, autism and multiple disabilities. Genetic consanguinity (marrying close relations) is one of the significant causes of offspring that are diagnosed with special-needs. Genetic consanguinity is not un-common, even in highly educated communities in Tamil Nadu.
Dr. Somalay Somasundaram, TNF Director, who was involved with a girls and women empowerment project in Vedaranyam, was made aware of the plight of the children of Anbalayam in Sirkali. He visited Anbalayam in 2006 and to his dismay found that the children starved most of the days. The orphanage was in such a bad condition that when it rained the children had to stand along the wall because the roof leaked badly. A focused effort by Dr. Somalay in raising funds through Philadelphia Tamil community resulted in a building of 3,000 square feet in TNF owned four grounds of new land. Tamil Sangam of central Indiana and Dallas-based Sastha Tamil foundation (through “Angel Janani” project) made the initial contributions to a corpus fund that will help meet the operating expenses for Anbalayam in a sustainable manner. Thanks to the generosity of American Tamil community, Rs. 1 crore has been raised for that corpus fund. Stage Friends USA helped build an Education Center for the children and American Tamil Medical Organization enabled weekly visits by a physician to provide basic health care for the children. Anbalayam has become a testimonial to partnership among American Tamil organizations in helping the neediest and for the ability of TNF to execute challenging projects in rural Tamil Nadu.