Report from Ute Hüsken’s visit to the orphanage in October 2015


Ute Hüsken’s visit to the orphanage

First of all in a nutshell: even though – thanks to your generosity – we now have collected the money needed for building a house, we are not yet able to make it happen, since the Indian trust has not yet received the obligatory government permission to accept money from abroad. However, the Indian trust decided to send two to three representatives to Delhi soon, so that they can negotiate directly with the staff of relevant government office, and possibly speed up the processing time for our application (after all, we handed in our application ca. one year ago).

As reported some time ago, the nine girls had to leave the orphanage, because we can not accommodate boys and girls together in the existing premises. I then met the girls when I was in Kanchipuram and am happy to report that they are doing relatively well!


the girls met with Ute Hüsken, too

Three of the girls are the daughters of a single mother who as as a sweeper has a very meager income, below the subsistence level. They are now living with their mother at home and feel fine there – fortunately even their school performance has improved. We will now also provide this family with additional food (good rice, regular vegetables, milk, etc.) from our budget.


the girls

Four of the girls could not go and are now housed together in a government hostel for girls. In this residence a female warden is always present, and the girls may leave the residence only to go to school or if a female adult picks them up and brings them back again. The girls are doing well even in the hostel, but Mr. Subramaniam can not visit them because only women are allowed to visit. But one of our older girls, visits them regularly and brings them the items we provide them with. When I met these girls they told me that they feel quite comfortable in the hostel, where they live together in one room. Although the hostel house rules are very strict, they like the food there a lot, and they are also doing well at school.


view from the roof of the new residence


the boys show the store room


one living room

Since early October the boys live in a new apartment, which is located on the eastern edge of the city, in a well-off area. The 14 boys now have a longer commute to their schools, which they navigate with bicycles, busses, or share taxis. This seems to work fairly well. The apartment itself is in my opinion much better than the previous one: it is on the first floor of a residential building, has lots of light and many windows. The apartment is not large, but is also not significantly smaller than the previous accommodation. All in all, I am quite happy with the new accommodation, especially compared with the last residence.


the kitchen


the new bathrooms on the roof

One of the older boys has finished his typewriting course with distinction and will now visit an advanced course. He is in his last year of school in Shankara Arts and Science College, and has very good prospects to get a good job thereafter.

On 11.11. was Diwali, the festival of lights (similar to our Christmas), and we have again each given all the children (boys and girls) a new set of clothing, and sweets and fireworks (mainly firecrackers).

Thus the report from Kanchipuram – until our trust meeting in early 2016 we also hope to have good news regarding the government permit!


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News September 2015

Dear friends and benefactors of the Natrangal orphanage in Kanchipuram, here is an update on the situation of the Natrangal orphanage, and the project of building a house for the children:

Unfortunately, we are still waiting for the permission to transfer money from abroad to the Indian trust, so that they can start to build the house on the plot that the orphanage already owns. We hope that we will have the permit to transfer money to the Indian trust by December or January (the papers are sitting in Delhi).

As if we had not known about the urgency of this matter, we recently first had to send the girls home (for the time being), and then were forced again to find a new accommodation for the remaining children.

The new state regulations for orphanages forced us to temporarily send our girls home. This is because since 2015, girls and boys are not allowed to live in a shared apartment, even if toilets and bathrooms are separate. We could avoid this until the school year ended (May 2015), but then had to comply, since our present accommodation only accommodates either boys or girls. If we had not sent the girls home, we would have had to shut down the entire orphanage – and the decision to send the girls home, instead of the boys, was simply because there are fewer girls than boys. Even though this was a tough decision, this was the best we could do, we felt. At the same time, we continue do whatever we can to follow up the girls even though they have been sent home. Most of them continue to come in the afternoons to Mr Subramaniam’s work place (the marriage hall he manages), where they do homework with Mala, his wife, and where they both can follow up and see how the girls are doing. We also continue to provide them with cloth, toiletries, school clothes and other material, school fees and so on, and so far it seems to be going ok. Mr and Mrs also once a month visit the girls’ homes, to see how the situation is there. Only two of the girls, Vanmati and Anita, who had no place to go back to, had to be accommodated in a government hostel for girls.

This situation (the government regulations) also implies that for our house project we need to plan to construct two separate sections – either we will have to construct a separate floor for the girls (with an own entrance, and maybe even an own kitchen), or we will have to go for two separate buildings, close to each other.

Moreover, in July we came to know that we have to vacate the current apartment again – the astrologer of the house owner told him that his current residence is inauspicious, so he wants to move in the children’s apartment himself. Fortunately, the months of August and September are (also for astrological reasons) no good months to move, so we had some time to find a new apartment. One of the trustees agreed that we can move into the upper portion of his house (2 rooms, and a kitchen), but in order to pass as appropriate accommodation for the city administration, we again need to construct two more bathrooms and toilets. This can be done in September, so we are confident that we can in fact move into the new boys’ residence in Periyanagar (at the Eastern end of Kanchipuram) in October. The children will not change schools in spite of the shift, since the school year has started some time ago. They will take buses or share rikshas to reach their schools.

I will be in Kanchipuram in October and will then report back about my impression of the situation – I also will try to visit the girls at their homes to see how they are doing.

As soon as I am back I will let you all know what the state of affairs is.

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Towards a house for the children: progress report

Thanks to the great generosity of our members and backers, we collected a good portion of the money necessary for the construction of the house and the purchase of the ground!

A big thank you to all who have donated so generously!!!

Meanwhile the Indian trust is applying for the permission to accept funds from abroad – which sadly will take a few months. Yet this permission is required now since the amount of money to be transferred is quite substantial.

But meanwhile we are not idle, and begin to look for a suitable piece of land to build the house on. Fortunately a member of our German trust, Mr. Juergen John, works and lives close to Kanchipuram. Together with Mr. Subramaniam he will look for a sufficiently large plot in a good location – we are on the ball and will notify you when there is something new to report!

Until this actually happens, we try to make living in the new apartment for the children as comfortable as possible.


The boys‘ room and dining hall


storage in the kitchen


Shivakumar was feverish on that day


the kitchen


the children are also taking pictures


dinner time


dinner time


the children’s school bags

The children have now moved into the new apartment. The monsoon has brought a little chill, so we bought additional sweaters, shoes and blankets for the children. My PhD student Ina, who conducts research in Kanchipuram, visited them. As she reports, the children are quite obviously excited about the move. They enjoy exploring the new environment and meeting new people. All this they find very exciting, as they eloquently explained to Ina. The children have had English lessons by Mr Subramaniam’s daughter Aishu for some weeks now. Aishu is 25 years old and works for a software company in Chennai, but visits Kanchipuram at the weekends to teach our children.

The new apartment looks still rather sparse, but we already found donors who will collect the funds to have a carpenter make some tables and benches. The walls are brightly painted and the rooms are separated by wooden separation walls. These walls do not quite reach the ceiling, so the air can circulate – even though this means that there is less privacy.

The children now have much more space than they had in the old apartment. Another advantage of the new apartment is that it is very close to the „marriage hall“ which Mr. Subramaniam manages. So it is easy for them to walk over and do their homework there – Mr. Subramaniam’s wife Mala takes care of the children while they do their homework.

All in all we are very confident that the construction of the house can be accomplished in 2015 – and we wish to thank you again for your help!

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Our project: A house for the orphanage

In just the last few years, the orphanage has been forced to move a number of times. This was caused by the rising rents in Kanchipuram. Each of our past landlords forced the orphanage to leave in order to rent at higher prices to more affluent tenants. Landlords also preferred a family or two rather than the orphanage with more than twenty children and a few adults to supervise and to care for the children.

In addition, this summer (2014) new government regulations for orphanages were formulated. Unfortunately, the house our orphanage inhabited, did not conform to these standards. The house was considered structurally unsafe. In order not to be forced to close down, we quickly had to find a different place.

It is extremely important for the orphanage to keep its legal status as recognized by the Indian government. If this is not the case, the government might shut us down and place the children in several different state run orphanages. This has happened to many orphanages recently. If this were to occur with our orphanage, the friendship, support, and community the children have built up over years of living together would be broken. Sad to say, a number of children from recently closed orphanages placed in state run orphanages have run away preferring to live on the street.
We therefore had to act very swiftly. However, the only place we could find is a former open space storage hall without much daylight and ventilation. The only daylight and air circulation comes in through a few openings in the ceiling. There are no windows at all. At the moment the owner of the space has built some additional walls to divide the space into rooms, and is installing bathrooms, toilets and a kitchen area. While the space is in fact big enough, I think that it must be extremely difficult to live in. The necessary additional walls to create separate rooms take away the little daylight and ventilation there is. Moreover, in the very hot summer there are frequent electric outages (6-8 hours is not uncommon), and during this time the children will have neither light nor will the fans work. I dread the time the children have to live in this space!



The children will move into this space in October 2014.

We have to do something about this very soon! The children need decent living and learning conditions. Importantly, they also need a stable home.
Our hope and plan is to build a new house for the children.
In the summer of 2013 an Indian philanthropist donated to the orphanage a piece of land on the outskirts of Kanchipuram. We wish to buy an adjacent plot, and then build a house for the orphanage on this land. This house would be built according to our needs. Importantly, the reality of having to relocate again and again would finally be gone.

However, to buy an adjoining plot and to build such a house will cost us at least $40,000.
Let us all mobilize together along with our friends and colleagues – together we can do it!



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The new school year starts

In March friends from New York, Miche and their daughter Violet, were in Kanchipuram and did a photography course with the children. Luckily, shortly before they came, we  found a place in the city itself (for a few months, the orphanage had to move to a nearby village). Now the orphanage is back in town, close to the „collector’s office“.


Miche and Violet also took all children to the swimming pool of their hotel, and a few girls have actually dared to go into the water – of course with clothes, this is quite normal in India.

All were terribly sad when Miche and Violet had to travel further, but as a momentum the children kept copies of the pictures they shot, and now these pictures decorate the whole house. Miche’s friend also donated a camera to the orphanage – maybe one or the other or the children will now become a photography specialist?

After that, all the children had to prepare for the exam – and everything went well: Jambulingam has passed his exam, and has applied to three Polytechnic colleges, to study engineering. Gopalakrishnan has passed class 10 and is now entering the Shankara college. The girls Anu and Renuka go now to the Krishna college and specialize in banking there. Sharavana also has passed the 10th class and now goes to the Paccajjappa College, where he specializes in IT.

Ute Huesken visited the orphanage again in July, when she was attending a workshop in Pondicherry. Here is her report:


After the orphanage was housed in a small village outside the city of Kanchipuram for a few months, we have fortunately managed to again rent a house in Kanchipuram itself. The house in the countryside was indeed spacious and beautiful, but the long routes to the schools were very cumbersome and time-consuming – plus it was difficult for the trust members, to just go and visit the children. So it was a lot more lonely in the countryside.
The new house in Kanchipuram is small but fine – and in a pleasant district with many small houses with a garden, and the neighbors are all very nice and helpful. They take much part in the lives of the children in the orphanage. Often neighbors come by to bring sweets or something useful, or just for a chat with the children or the caregivers.
In February we again received the status of „charitable organization“ in India – it was not so easy to juggle the intricate and obscure Indian bureaucracy. But Mr. Subramanian has again managed to get this status for us!


Five children joined us this summer:
Vanmati is a 11 year old girl, whose parents have been dead for quite some time. The grandfather, with whom she lived since then, also recently died. Her teacher has recommended her to us – she’s a very sweet girl and an avid Bollywood dancer!

Anita is 8 years old, she came along with her brother, Shivakumar who is only 5 years old. The mother of the two children died some time ago. Her father is a coolie who earns too little money to support his children. The school principal brought the two children to our attention.

Dipika is also new to the orphanage. She is 8 years old. Her single mother is Washerwoman and can not pay for their 5 children with her meager income. But they tries to visit Dipika every day at the orphanage.

Sanjay is a 9-year old boy who is with us since June. He does not talk much, but the others really look after him – since he is with us, he has become much happier.

Also our „old timers“ bring us much joy: all children, without exception, make great progress in school.
Again, the running costs have risen – and although the local Indian trust can take care of many of the additional costs, we have to increase our monthly support: the vegetables, milk, and rice have become more expensive. In addition, the rent is now higher because we live in town again. We decided also to raise the salary of the employees to adapt them to the higher costs of living.

Overall I can say that I enjoyed the visit very much, and above all that I see and feel how well the children do, and what a successful project we have put together here.

A HUGE thanks to all of you who have helped!


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Miche and Violet’s visit at the Orphanage a great success!

Miche and Violet visited the orphanage last week, conducted a photography course with the children, printed many of the pictures and gave them to the children to decorate the walls, the even presented the orphanage with a digital camera, and also took the children to a swimming pool, and danced together! Have a look at Miche’s blog, describing the visit beautifully, with many compelling pictures:

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Donations from New York

Before Miche and Violet traveled to Kanchipuram, they collected donations from friends class mates, colleagues, and well-wishers. All in all, the orphanage received  2000 US $ !

We wish to thank the generous donors VERY much: Karim Latif, Jason and Elyssa Ackerman, Elizabeth, Seth, Talia, Caroline and Joey Grossman, Carol Meyer and Lloyd Westerman, Stephane, Alison and Julian GersonTracy, Andy and David Siklos, Amanda Sprague and Fran Reilly, Toby Bialo, Nicole Dubach, Bank of America Team, Marcela, Dawone, Emmanuelle Christin, Richard Burbridge, Robert McCabe, Adeline & Marie Desjonqueres, Nathalie Genebes, Rick Guidotti, Wil Ashley, Richard Bigger, Herb Thelosen, Sabrina Turin

… and of course special thanks to: Miche Griffin and her daughter Violet Moore!!!

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Photography course for the kids, by Violet and Miche

Right now Violet and her mother

Miche from New York are visiting the orphanage in Kanchipuram – they brought a bunch of cameras with them, and did a small workshop on photography with the kids – from what one can see in the pictures, it must be great fun!photo3



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In early December our former landlord has sold his house as a surprise. Neck over her head, we had to find something else. This proved to be very difficult. The rents in Kanchipuram increase steadily and rapidly, we have found on the fly just a place to stay in Arpakkam, about 12 km outside the city. This is mainly because the area between Chennai and Bangalore (and in this artery is Kanchipuram) is now almost completely industrial space: all kinds of international companies are settling there. These companies naturally also attract workers to the area – and these workers often live in group homes, are rarely at home, and pay much better than the orphanage. So landlords prefer to rent their spaces to them. Further, it is also the huge water consumption of our orphanage (after all, there are almost 30 people) that poses a problem when trying to find a new place.

Fortunately, however, we have found something – the new home is now on the outskirts of Kanchipuram (some 12 km), in Arpakkam (which can be found with google earth, it is south-east of Kanchipuram, one has to look for „Arpakkam, Kanchipuram“). The new house is located within a building which belongs to RIDE – also a non-profit organization. However, we must now pay 5000 rupees (twice as much as before). It’s all much more roomy, but also quite far out.

The building has a large hall, which is now divided into a girl and a boy room and office. (we put in the divisions with wooden walls), a kitchen, three bathrooms and four toilets Mosquito nets are fitted to the windows and the complex also has a night watchman and has a large garden with trees and other plants. The power supply is good there, and also the provision of water (in Kanchipuram, the situation is worse), and Arpakkam is located on a bus route to Kanchipuram.

The distance also means that the children have fewer visits by the local trust members. The six youngest children had to change school – they have now been removed to the local school about 1.5 km away from the new home. The other kids kept right on their previous schools and are now going there daily by bus to Kanchipuram. We believe that this should not be a permanent solution, because of the long traveling time, and the reduced contact to „the outside world“. But at the moment we will not have much choice but to swallow this toad.

Luckily Mr Shanmugam and Mr Subramaniam took care of everything organizationally. We will soon get pictures  by Mr. Subramaniam that we will publish  here.

Given this situation, we need to now increase our efforts to get financial support from German companies settled near Kanchipuram  – without a sustainable sponsorship the resettlement of the orphanage to Kanchipuram seems to be very difficult.

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