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 neighboring 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’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 told 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 Mathews 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 – 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’ said Robin, ‘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’.
He added that 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. Brother Joy Daniel and his wife Dora are running the other Home, Carmel Matha Santhi Bhavan, providing for rescued street children
2016 saw a medical center launched at Little Flower where our 120-plus children and 170 destitute adults are cared for. Farm production prospects are good – but right now the children’s Homes and the farm are threatened by the current financial situation.
Committed supporters are doing so much for the charity and the Homes but more help is needed or the future of our children, and all those who will surely follow in their footsteps, will be in doubt.
Robin Radley – CHIKS
Hear Robin on video describe the amazing work of Chiks