How We Got Started
A very special woman, trained by Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, was caring for some fifty disabled people when I came across her in a crumbling building in a poor fishing village in the south of India (writes Robin Radley).
Years later, in the 1990s, Sister Mary and I, sharing a dream about one day helping some of India’s homeless children, heard that all those in her care were one day to be transferred to a new, purpose-built home in the heart of Chennai City, Tamil Nadu. It was her cue to put our orphanage plans into action in neighbouring Kerala State.
Chiks (Children’s Homes In Kerala State, India) a small but very active charity, was launched and registered before the turn of the century. Today we are providing for more than 200 children in three orphanages, and we are developing a farm. For most boys and girls brought to us, or who appear at the gates after years of cruelty or neglect, life had been one of indescribable poverty. No proper home, inadequate meals, little or no health care. Seldom any education.
The need for greater care of children born into poverty and often at risk is sadly a very old story; letting them know they are loved and cherished is what’s most important and that’s what Chiks was always going to be about.
We rescue poor children. Often from forest tribal communities but also from streets and railway stations. At the start in 1996, when our first orphanage opened, we had little real understanding about the real need in India where, as experience has taught us, the division between the well-off and the penniless masses is so starkly defined. Our story has always been about providing a happy Home with total healthcare, and introducing regular education into children’s lives. All of that leading to a real opportunity to free each child from what had been an unbroken cycle of generational poverty.
Mary Mathew was brought up to actively care for humanity. While I found funding from UK friends, her selfless drive and commitment (trained as she’d been by her charitable parents and later alongside Mother Teresa) saw our work flourish and expand.
The first children were welcomed in the winter of 1996 and numbers soon increased; many of the boys and girls had no-one in their lives and were begging for survival when we picked them up. Later we were to find many more who had spent their early years living in forests where they had been born.
These and most others had known only unimaginable poverty, and some had suffered cruelty or neglect. Recurring nightmares said so much – still do. But our Homes, functioning independently of each other, bring so much into the children’s lives – from good food and healthcare to education, friendships and fun – that sad memories can soon fade.
Our young people look forward to one day facing the world with confidence. They study hard and are so determined to be ready for whatever life has to offer. How tragic that in this 21st Century family poverty still blights the lives of multi-millions, people who must go without decent meals and proper health.
Chiks is run entirely by volunteers. ‘We need and so value help from friends – personal support with donations or sponsorship, or with fundraising activities. Together we can change so many more lives’.
Our Hill Homes
A few years after opening the original orphanage in Kerala, Chiks helped other strongly motivated Indians to open orphanages. We also bought a neglected farm and today it is on-course to sustain those Hill Homes. So, in addition to the Main Home (Karunanilayam) we are providing for children at two others that we founded at Munnar, on the Tamil Nadu border, and Carmel Matha Santhi Bhavan, on the road to Bangalore.
These homes are supporting over 200 children, largely from destitute tribal backgrounds – families often existing in wild and remote areas with no basic facilities. Mathew Manuel and his wife Molly, inspired by the late Blessed Teresa, started a Home for destitute adults – then together we launched a new house at Little Flower for the care of children. Meanwhile, Brother Joy Daniel and his wife Dora opened the other Home in the hills, Carmel Matha Santhi Bhavan, providing for rescued street children and those from tribal communities.
Chiks also provided a farm in support of the Homes. Additionally, we have also opened a medical centre, and Polyhouses to provide for year-round vegetable and fruit production (temperature-controlled), plus fish farming (aquaponics). All this despite severe financial and political constraints – British people being nervous about their future as UK leaves the EU, and ongoing price rises in India.
We applaud our committed supporters, who are doing so much for the charity and the Homes but more and help is URGENTLY needed or the future of our children, and all those who will surely follow into our care, will be in doubt.
Our Mission and Ethos
We are about rescuing desperately poor children and, as founder Robin Radley says, through health care and education “giving them something to smile about!”
This Trust, registered with the Charity Commission, is committed to acting ethically and with integrity at all times as it seeks to help the poorest of the poor in southern India. Chiks’ aims always to meet the highest ethical standards, and respect for all is embedded in its work. Major planning decisions and developments are fully documented and Chiks’ financial affairs ensure accountability at all times. We welcome enquiries of any kind and indeed the interest and involvement of supporters and others in what we do and how we do it is encouraged.
My story and vision? Life is misery for the miserably poor, likely having poor health and existing on so little. It is often the case that when a parent comes to accept that there is no hope for change in the family situation they are able to hand over responsibility for the care and education of the children, giving the young ones a chance. This is a huge step for the desperate adult – and living away with strangers will often be a worrying prospect for the child, though not for long! Like children everywhere, they quickly thrive in a structured life, with love and security, friendships and fun. All that, along with regular nourishing meals – and education. So, my vision? To have the funds to be able to give more no-hope children the same chances in life.
What differences have we made? Healthy, educated, confident young people eventually leave Chiks’ Homes – and we will often help them with money in their new bank account as they go on to further education or training for a career. A devoted supporter is topping-up our special ‘pot’, Fund for Life. More financial help would be wonderful.
Why I set up the homes? Mary Mathew was running a home for disabled people in India when I met her and we shared a dream to one day do something to help at least some of India’s street children and others with no future. Mary, formerly working alongside Mother Teresa for many years, has been running the main Home since 1996.
More than 20 years on, what do we want? A lot, but we’d love to have more people committed to a Standing Order which allows us to better plan for the future (and the Standing Order can easily be cancelled, should the individual wish). Payments can be monthly quarterly or annually. Those with a Standing Order of at least £25 pm can have the satisfaction of being associated with a specific child, as his or her sponsor.
Find out more: Contact Robin, whose details are found on our Standing Order form (click on How To Help at the top of this page).
Below Robin Radley explains by video the Chik’s story. It was made on a visit to a supportive church years ago, but the basic message is unchanged. Help us to help them!