What began as a modest vehicle for philanthropic activities has today grown into a massive service institution. A look at Guild of Service’s phenomenal 90-year journey

As it steps into its 90th year, the Guild of Service (Central) looks robust. What began in Madras as a modest vehicle for the philanthropic activities of a clutch of European ladies is today a massive service institution with 22 ongoing projects, 18,000 beneficiaries every year and 16 branches covering the four southern States.

As a mark of success, each of the Guild’s long-standing programmes — that serve children, women, the differently abled and the elderly in the areas of health, education, shelter, life and vocational skills — has an established identity of its own. To give a few examples, SS Children’s Home (Pallipattu), SS Boys’ Home (Saligramam), SS Girls Home (Egmore), Gen. Cariappa Higher Secondary School (Saligramam), Lady Nye MRT Higher Secondary School (Pallipattu), MCJ Girls Higher Secondary School (Egmore) and Bala Vihar for mentally challenged children (Kilpauk) are highly valued in the regions they serve.

Despite many of its projects being decades-old, the Guild appears not to have slipped into complacency, and shows a willingness to seize new opportunities for community work. In 2003, the Guild made an unexpected move by setting up a family counselling centre at Puzhal jail for women under trials and prisoners. Besides a free offer of counselling and legal support, these inmates are imparted training in various vocations in a bid to wean them from deviant lifestyles.

A better life

Among the other initiatives launched within the last 10 years, is the GOS Educational and Nutritional Support Program (2005), for which the Guild has teamed up with M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation. Targetted at semi-orphaned children in four villages of Nagapattinam district, the programme ensures education, proper nutrition, health care, life skills training for them.

Numbers and percentages is another test of success the Guild passes comfortably. The Self-Help Groups programme established in 2003 to help economically disadvantaged women with financial self-sufficiency has grown into 407 units with each accounting for 12 to 20 women members. In a 2009 literature, Lady Nye MRT Higher Secondary School was listed as having a strength of 625 students and the Seva Samajam Boys Nursery and Primary School as having 1,000 students and the Gen. Cariappa Higher Secondary School was singled out for an impressive 18-year run of 100 per cent pass results in SSLC.

Himani Datar, honorary secretary of the GOS-Central, points out another barometer of organisational effectiveness against which the Guild has fared well — transformation of lives.

As Himani rattles off a list of successful people the Guild has sent into the world after nourishing them in its founding home, Trine walks in as if on cue. She was brought to the founding home as a one-year-old and, at two, found a home in Denmark through adoption. Nineteen now, she has returned to show her gratitude to the Guild. And how! She takes care of the little ones at the foundling home on Casa Major Road.

Aparna Bharathan, who serves the Guild as a volunteer, says: “Volunteers at the Guild exhibit remarkable commitment to its causes. Look at Trine — confident, educated and ready to take on the world — and you instantly know why!”

(For details, visit www.guild ofservicecentral.org)