September 14, 2015
Way back in 1950, T.V. Thillaiammal, daughter of T.A. Ramalingam Chettiar, started the Coimbatore Seva Nilayam for orphans.
A few years down the line, Seva Nilayam had extended its services to home for children, junior approved school, care of destitute children, Saradhamani Devi Primary School, Seva Nilayam Girls High School, working women’s hostel, and the Tailoring Institute for Women. Founder Thillaiammal passed away in January 2009, at the age of 96. Throughout her life, she worked tirelessly towards improving the quality of life of girl children from the weaker sections of the society. In recognition of her service, she was conferred with a number of awards, including Sevai Annai and Outstanding Social Service Award.
Jayashree Ravi, who is from the founder’s family, has taken over as the Secretary of Coimbatore Seve Nilayam. “17 years ago, I would visit this place just once or twice a week to check if everything was in place. The depth of work here inspires me spend a lot of my time with these children,” she says.
Ever since Coimbatore Seva Nilayam opened its doors to the needy, more than 35,000 girl children have benefited from the home. For the rest of the world, this is a place that transforms the lives of these little girls. But, for those who are part of the movement, the Coimbatore Seva Nilayam, is a close-knit family.
“Some members of our staff have been with us for more than 15 years and they do not want to leave us. Our home and schools are well equipped with all the safety and security measures. In fact, we implement these measures even before the Government makes them mandatory,” Jayashree says.
The one-acre campus is the universe for the girls who would otherwise have had to deal with the harsh realities of the world. The girls have access to a library, televisions, and radio. The campus has a functional biogas plant. The girls are taken on one-day excursions during the weekends. “Sometimes, donors come forward to sponsor a meal or take the girls out on an evening,” Jayashree adds.
The home also works towards getting the girls married once they reach marriageable age. “We find the right groom, verify the boy’s background and credentials, and fix the wedding once we are convinced that the girl will be in safe hands. As marriage gift, we give them basic household amenities. The marriage takes place as per the Hindu traditions, in the presence of the entire Seva Nilayam family.” Jayashree shares.
From politicians to celebrities, Coimbatore Seva Nilayam is frequented by high-profile visitors. The Secretary tells us that Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, actor K. Bhagyaraj, and his son Shanthanu Bhagyaraj are among those who have visited the Coimbatore Seva Nilayam.
Photos: Life at Coimbatore Seva Nilayam