When Valsalya Bhavan, a home for exploited and abandoned girls, was set up under the aegis of the Kochi Corporation and Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan in June 1997, a home to take care of abandoned boys was almost a quarter of a century old.
The home for girls was established under special circumstances after a study under the Valsalya project. It was initiated with focus on Kochi city by the civic body and Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan with support from Overseas Development Authority. The study found that the major cause for the spread of AIDS in the city was sex workers, who had made Kochi their base.
It was then found that mere creation of awareness would not be enough, but that children of sex workers would have to be rehabilitated to prevent them from becoming sex workers themselves. Their rehabilitation was then considered a major step towards containing the spread of the disease too.
Medical Mission Sisters helped Don Bosco Sneha Bhavan in creating awareness. The two institutions joined hands to launch awareness campaigns, and the establishment of Valsalya Bhavan was a result of the campaign. Valsalya Bhavan was set up in a room on Old Railway Station Road in June, 1997. It was inaugurated by the late Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer. Then Kochi Mayor Somasundara Panikkar presided over the inaugural function, recalled sources in Don Bosco as the mission completed 25 years.
The daily expenses of Valsalya Bhavan were met by the Corporation by sourcing funds under the poverty eradication programme. Valsalya Bhavan continued to operate out of the rented room for around 10 years. It was the support of Medical Mission Sisters and the Kochi Corporation that saw the survival of the programme for girls.
It was in 2010 that Valsalya Bhavan was shifted to a more permanent base at Ponnurunni. The Corporation allotted the ‘Amma Thottil’ space for children. The next step in the growth of Valsalya Bhavan was in 2013 when girls studying in classes 7 and above were allotted space at the Valsalya Bhavan Anexe at Vaduthala. Thus Valsalya Bhavan Junior Section hosts girls studying from classes 1 to 7. This is a joint venture of Don Bosco Welfare Society and the Kochi Corporation. But the senior section is run by Don Bosco Welfare Society.
Today the major work involves children being referred to Valsalya Bhavan by the District Child Line and District Child Welfare Committee. The children reaching Valsalya Bhavan are given training in various vocational fields like computer and tailoring along with their regular studies. The Vimalalayam Sisters too have played a big role in ensuring the welfare of children at Valsalya Bhavan, Don Bosco sources added.