Tsunami orphans in Southern India rehoused in time for Christmas thanks to India Direct charity

Ninety-five children, victims of the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami which decimated their lives five years ago, will this year celebrate Christmas in a new purpose built children’s home in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, provided and maintained by Cheshire based charity India Direct (www.indiadirect.org.uk).

‘Joy’ Home, as it is called, replaces temporary accommodation rented in the immediate aftermath of the Tsunami by the charity, which has cared for destitute children at Bethel Home in Chennai since 1995, and now cares for Joy Home too. Chairman of India Direct, Architect David Armstrong, was in Chennai when the Tsunami struck. “At the time all we could do was provide material help to some of the more remote and harder hit villages, but we also knew we had to do something meaningful for their future.”

That future began with designing and building the charity’s second home whilst establishing a temporary shelter catering both for orphans and children whose parents could no longer look after them. Macclesfield based Armstrong Architects’ design is based on the traditional Indian ‘Keralan Christian’ style, featuring an open central courtyard which ensures good all round natural light and ventilation for the dormitories. Now the new home is a hub of learning that extends beyond the lives of the children who live there. During the day it becomes a tailoring school for children of fishing families in an innovative scheme where graduates are given a sewing machine and tailor’s kit to take back to their communities and set up in business.

This year, Bethel and Joy Homes also played host to students from Poynton High School who have been closely involved with the project for the past 5 years. A play park financed by the school was opened at Joy when they visited. Several classes at PHS now sponsor Indian children, which costs just £25 per child per month, providing that child with accommodation, food, clothes, schooling and basic medical care.

“Our experience in Chennai proved invaluable when it came to helping the Tsunami victims and shows just how much can be achieved working with a few good people. This year we can see a Christmas with a future that was unthinkable for these children a few years ago,” adds Armstrong.

The major challenge for 2010 will be the addition of a separate accommodation block to comply with recent changes in the laws covering orphanages by the local authorities. “We’ve been so lucky and privileged in what we’ve achieved so far and the people’s whose lives we’ve reached, yet there’s so much more we want to do,” concludes Armstrong.

India Direct was formed in 1995 following a meeting with Pastor Martin from Madras who was caring at that time for 7 orphans in a rented mud hut which had been flooded in the Monsoons. With no support available locally, India Direct was formed to provide a permanent home for these children. Bethel home opened in 1996 and is now a permanent, happy home for about 50 destitute or orphaned children.

Today, a total of 150 children are given a home for as long as they need it. They live in a relaxed family style environment and are given complete care: clean water, food, clothes, full-time education, training for jobs, medical care, pets and friends.

All Trustees and support staff of India Direct are volunteers, allowing the charity to send 100% of all donations to work in India and cover its administration from a portion of reclaimed tax.