The Light of Love Children’s Home and School is SLA’s principal project, now caring for approximately 400 children. Located in the rural market town of Tuni, the day-to-day operations of the home are the responsibility of Sony Wood who is the Director of the Home and School, and his wife Sowyma, a qualified doctor.
Our Indian partners are the Nazareth Association for Social Awareness (NASA), a grassroots non-governmental organisation (NGO) founded in 1985 by the late Dr. Christopher Premdas, Sony’s father and Nazareth Education Society (NES) their education focused sister NGO organisation.
SLA’s aim is to help children to break out of the cycle of poverty, SLA’s funds help our partner to care for children who are taken into the Light of Love Home on the basis of need, irrespective of caste, religion, or any other consideration. The goal is to give each of these children an education so that they have the necessary tools to achieve their full potential and to escape the poverty trap and can have a choice in the future they build for themselves.
Before coming to the Home all of the children were destitute, and living below the poverty line. Many of the children at the Home have suffered terrible tragedies in their young lives. Most of the children have lost one parent and some have lost both. Some of the children at our Homes have a physical disability or a parent with a disability or AIDS. Some are Dalits, formally known as ‘Untouchables’, historically ostracised and oppressed by mainstream Indian society.
The children for whom our partners care come from the ‘other India’, a world away from booming, urban middle class society. This is the India that is home to more than half of the world’s malnourished children, over 60 million kids who go hungry every day. This is the India where 15 million children are forced into bonded labour.
Through our partner, SLA feed, clothe, house, educate and give medical care to these and other vulnerable children. Our joint purpose is to transform these children’s lives thus enabling them to lead independent poverty-free lives. Our ethos is based on solidarity with the destitute and vulnerable. SLA does not promote any particular faith or belief system.
In 1999, the Edinburgh youth group QII visited the small market town of Tuni to help build the Light of Love Home. The group had raised £28,000 towards the project and the money was used to construct the foundations and first floor of the home.
With no toilets, showers, beds or classroom equipment it was a rudimentary start but still represented a giant leap forward. Previously, the 120 children had taken shelter in two unused buildings next to Dr. Premdas’ offices and ate their meals outside.
Since then the campus, and the number of children, has expanded remarkably quickly, a cause for celebration but also a sobering reflection of the endless demand for shelter and refuge.
Under Indian law all children have the right to an education. The traditional caste system, however, regards Dalit children as unfit for education, their rightful place being working the fields not learning in the classroom. Educated Dalits would pose a threat to traditional village hierarchies.
The result of this discrimination and the demand for children’s labour is that the majority of Dalit children drop out before reaching secondary school.
SLA’s funding makes education available to children denied it due to poverty, disability or discrimination.
In 2015-16, SLA continued to fund education for 311 children from Kindergarten through to High School graduation after Class 10 (aged 15-16). The school is recognized by the State Government and follows the Andhra Pradesh government curriculum, overseen by the Principal and a staff of 24 teachers as well as 5 outside class tutors. 143 children are taught in the native language Telegu while 168 children are taught in English. ‘English Medium’ education for all is NASA’s long-term goal.
The results gained in Class 10 are generally accepted across India to be the best measure of the quality of a school. Thus we are very happy to report that in 2016 for the fifth year in succession 100% of students graduated from High School by passing their critical Class 10 examinations. Now considered ‘literate’ by Indian society, these 36 children have made their first step towards an independent adulthood free from poverty and discrimination.
English Medium classes have expanded to Class 10 now, Kindergarten to Class 10 learn in English.
SLA’s aim is to enable as many young people as possible to gain academic, vocational and professional qualifications.
In the academic year 2016-17, SLA fully supported 65 students and partially supported 62 students through their further education.
Our ethos is that every child, no matter how poor their background, no matter what their colour, creed or caste, has the potential and the right to pursue their dreams through education and self-improvement.
Rural Andhra Pradesh is rife with disease. Polio, Leprosy, and Tuberculosis are among the threats children face. And then there is HIV/AIDS, which has reached epidemic proportions in parts of Andhra Pradesh. Visitors to the Light of Love Home are often amazed by how small the children are for their age. This is the legacy of a malnourished infancy.
SLA funds complete health care for the children in the Light of Love Home. Dr. Sowmya is married to the Director of the Home and lives onsite and provides medical care to the children with the help of a qualified nurse, Anitha, who grew up in the Home.
Dr. Sowmya conducts a daily clinic and monthly checks on all the children and closely monitors their physical growth and diet. She also has lifesaving equipment like anti- venom, adrenaline, oxygen and a nebulizer. Under her care the children’s health has steadily improved. The most common conditions treated by Dr. Sowmya include malaria, typhoid, scabies, gastroenteritis and broken bones.
There is no comprehensive state-supported immunisation programme in rural Andhra Pradesh.
In 2009, funded by SLA, our partner started immunising the children. Dr. Sowmya immunizes all new arrivals – 71 this year – against Measles, Diphtheria, Polio, Hepatitis B, Tetanus, Mumps, Rabies and Whooping Cough.
She has introduced flu vaccinations for all Kindergarten children and other vulnerable children. These programmes have been extraordinarily effective at keeping these diseases at bay.
MEASLES – Before vaccination there were 285 Measles cases at the Home in 2006, 278 Measles cases in 2007, 205 Measles cases in 2008 and 187 Measles cases in 2009. Since 2010 there have been only 3 cases of measles.
MUMPS – Before vaccination there were between 50 and 60 cases each year. There have been no cases of Mumps since 2010.
HIV/AIDS is a major concern. One in ten of the children have a parent who either has died of or is HIV positive. One of Dr Sowmya’s priorities is to test all the children who have been at risk of contracting HIV so they can receive the right drugs and nutrition to fight the virus.
New arrivals and children identified at risk are tested for HIV. There are currently five HIV+ children at the Home, who receive special protein-rich diets and anti-retroviral drugs from the government.
The purpose of NASA and NES is to provide a better future for the most vulnerable and oppressed sections of Indian society, particularly orphans, the disabled, leprosy and HIV/AIDS sufferers, sex workers, Adivasi (tribal) peoples and Dalits (Untouchables).
NASA’s founder, Dr. Premdas, was a Dalit and a Christian who dedicated his life to empowering Dalit people living in extreme poverty and fighting for their rights against the practice of untouchability.
NASA and NES’s work includes:
SLA is the sole provider only for NASA’s work caring for children, not for any other of NASA’s outreach work.