Inspirational Men

Building a Village For Those Without a Home

From feeding the homeless to providing them healthcare, sanitation, and financial support, here is how a man in Tamil Nadu helping the needy live with dignity. 

Anumuthu Chinnaraj from Tamil Nadu was just six years old when his father died, leaving him behind with a long life ahead full of responsibilities. Anumuthu’s father was a woodcutter and his mother was a housewife, which meant, the family lived a life without proper means of survival.

And after his father’s death, Anumuthu had no choice but to become a child labourer.

“I remember, I worked as a daily wage laborer with my mother. I earned Rs. 4 and my mom earned Rs. 6 per day and we had to provide for a family of four. I enrolled myself at a government school so that I could get mid-day meals,” he recalled.

The ordeal continued until he was 12 years old. The struggles seemed never-ending. But soon, a Catholic priest found him and enrolled him in a boarding school. This is when his life started taking a brighter turn. Anumuthu learned to love and kindness under the teachers’ guidance. He also learned lessons in charity and became an empathetic person.

Holistic empowerment to those in need

As time passed, Anumuthu found his calling. He wanted to help more people in need. He didn’t want anyone to go through the struggles he had faced.

He studied Multimedia and became a photographer. He took up a job to support the family. He grew up empathizing with the poor, sick and homeless people, who were abandoned by their families and left on the streets to die. He has worked with Mother Teresa Home, Friends of Birds of the Air (Akashaparavakal) and various other organizations.

While talking about his drive and motivation, he said, “I remember this incident when I was returning back home after attending a meeting at church, I heard a voice of a man crying in pain. I saw a naked mad, shivering in cold. That time, I had no money or extra clothes to help the poor guy. That pang of conscience fueled my actions.”

To take his efforts to the next level, he started an NGO ‘Snehan’ a few years ago. He left his job and became a full-time social worker. Through Snehan, he empowers people living on the streets of Pondicherry by engaging them in poultry, organic vegetable cultivation, and goat rearing.

Anumuthu also joined kanthari, an institute of social change where he learned leadership qualities and was able to make his goal more clear.

“The main aim of the organization is to see a Pondicherry were no individuals go to sleep with empty stomach and no individuals walks on the streets without anyone’s care and support,” he said.

Snehan covers multiple aspects to help and rehabilitate the homeless. Through their outreach program, they feed the homeless and deliver food packets to those in need. They also provide haircuts, sanitation, change of clothes, medicine, etc to the needy.

Another important aspect of Snehan’s work is taking care of the healthcare and medical needs of the homeless.  The team identifies people in need of medical support and take them to hospitals. Necessary medicines and treatments are provided free of cost. In the case of accidents/emergencies, immediate medical assistance is given.

Making Women Financially Independent

In communities where men dominate the household and spend most of theor earnings in alcohol, it becomes difficult for women to run the household.

To empower the marginalized women in the communities, Snehan has started a tailoring center. Here, unemployed women are trained in tailoring and given employment opportunities. The women manufacture cotton bags and then sell them to earn extra income.

“The work and training space is created in such a way that they can come in their own free time between 9.00 am to 6.00 pm. The remuneration is paid for the piece rate,” Anumuthu explained.

Earning with Dignity

Through their “earn with dignity” initiative, Snehan collaborates with another organization that makes high quality environmental free cotton bags by unemployed rural women in South India.

Snehan has also created a space for homeless adults to earn their livelihood through paper bags making. The activity is simple, hence, people with disabilities are also able to participate in this. Work timings are flexible, hence the individuals can devote time as per their convenience.

“The process of making bags is so simple that, during the work, they can watch television, talk to each-other, creak jokes, have fun and so on,” Anumuthu said. Every individual is able to earn Rs 50 to Rs 150 per day through this initiative.

The future

The team is on the way to create a village for the neglected, disabled, old and sick adults in Pondicherry. The village will become their home and would replace their families.

“The suffering individuals will have a bed to sleep, three times nutrition food to eat, recreation like television, indoor games, and others at Snehan Home. There would be qualified nurses to give them care and support physically and medically. Qualified counselors to speak to them, listen to their untold stories, and guide them in the right paths,”

He also hopes to open stores selling chicken, vegetables, and goats providing a sustainable income for the rehabilitated destitute.

 “We do not help professional beggars, we look after sick and neglected. We go and talk to them, we help them. We treat them when no one wants their hands dirty.”

Check out Snehan’s website for more details.

Picture Credits: Anumuthu Chinnaraj | Snehan

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About the author

Jagriti Parakh