Udayan, NGO made famous by Steve Waugh, hits a rough patch

Steve Waugh | File photo   | Photo Credit: Bhagya Prakash K

Udayan, the NGO that works for leprosy-affected children and earned countrywide popularity because of Australian cricketer Steve Waugh’s association with it, is running out of funds.

So bad is the situation that the institution, founded in 1970 by Englishman James Stevens, nearly closed down about three years ago but managed to keep itself afloat with help from SBI Life Insurance and ad hoc donations.

“We don’t know where the next money is going to come from,” Udayan chairperson Emily R. Menon told The Hindu. “We are desperately looking for local support. Kolkata is a prosperous city, I am sure it has enough companies that can help us, considering that CSR is now mandatory.”

“This is happening at a time when leprosy is once again on the rise, contrary to the belief that it has been eliminated. As many as 71% of leprosy cases worldwide are reported from India,” she said.

What has obviously gone against Udayan, based at Barrackpore near Kolkata, is the perception that it is always cash-rich, thanks to high-profile donors such as the French writer Dominique Lapierre and also Steve Waugh. But Mr. Lapierre has been in coma after he suffered a fall in 2012 and the donations from him — which were substantial — have completely dried up.

Mr. Waugh, on the other hand, is responsible for the education and training of only 60 of the 100 girls at Udayan and donates about ₹25 lakh a year. “Whereas our annual budget is about ₹1.8 crore,” said Ms. Menon. “While Mr. Waugh is doing a great job, we obviously need more funds. Our capacity is for 300 children, but right now we house only 260 (160 boys, 100 girls) because we cannot afford to have more.”

The former Australian cricket captain became associated with Udayan in the late 1990s after a meeting with Mother Teresa inspired him to do charity work. “Udayan feels like a second home,” the former cricketer, who was “Steve da” to the boys there, had said.

But that was then. Father Stevens, the founder of Udayan, died on Easter Sunday last year. His death largely went unnoticed, even though countless stigmatised children from the slums of Kolkata — either suffering from leprosy themselves or having parents affected by it — benefited from the childhood-to-livelihood scheme of his NGO.

At the moment, Udayan has seven children undergoing treatment for leprosy and about 35 who are under observation. “This year, we intend to start a fresh community outreach programme because there is a huge need for outreach, considering that leprosy is once again on the rise. But we need local support,” Ms. Menon said. “Ad hoc donations alone won’t do. We need sustained funding.”

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 2:53:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/udayan-ngo-made-famous-by-steve-waugh-is-running-out-of-funds/article30492312.ece

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