Karunalayalam is a sanctuary for orphans and disadvantaged children, says S. BINU RAJCovered in filth and dirt, he did not even resemble a child. "We could not even identify the sex of that child-like creature at first. Although we were nervous about approaching him as he seemed to be violent, we dared give him a good wash," recalls Thankachi Mathew. The boy was later named Sam.This is only one of the instances that make `Karunyalayam' (abode of compassion) a sanctuary for the needy. Situated at Chempazhanthy, a village on the outskirts of the city, Karunyalayam provides shelter to over 22 children. Thanks to this home, many children have resurrected their lives and made a new beginning.
Sign of successMementos and certificates won by the children of Karunyalayam tell a story of their own. Karunyalam is a dream come true for Thankachy Mathew, who has devoted her life for the destitute. Karunyalayam was started in 1999 with eight children. At one stage, the institution was home to 40 children. Now it has 22 children out of which 16 are girls. "All of them are not orphans in the true sense of the term. Most of them have parents but were forced to leave their homes for such reasons as poverty, parental problems and so on," says Thankachy.For many of the children, the home offers them a chance to regain their lost childhood. For instance, 17-year-old Anitha came to the home as a 12-year-old after her asthmatic mother found it difficult to provide for her family after her husband abandoned her. "Many of the children study at the nearby government school and almost all of them are brilliant in their studies and extra-curricular activities," says Thankachy. Anitha dreams of becoming a doctor. She knows it is difficult for her and Karunyalayam, but if she has imbibed something from Thankachy, it is the power of dreams and so Anitha nurtures her dream.The walls of Thankachy's office room are adorned with photographs of children in Karunyalayam receiving awards and prizes. "I feel elated when one of my children wins recognition or reaches a stage when they can stand on their feet. I am the mother of all these children," says 33-year-old Thankachy who is averse to marriage."I respect the institution of marriage but I feel that a family life will become a hurdle in my work. My family is here, all these are my children," says Thankachy.Thankachy admits that she finds it difficult to make ends meet. "We need a lot of money for rent, food, clothes and other expenses. But somehow with the help of some good Samaritans, Karunyalayam moves on," says Thankachy who dreams of a building of her own to run this institution.