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26 Feb 2024, Edition - 3149, Monday

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Sharanalayam A refuge for all

Umaima Shafiq


COIMBATORE: Everyone can help society in some way, it need not be monumental. A small step is enough like buying a pencil for a poor student,” says Vanitha Rangaraj, the founder trustee of Sharanalayam, a charitable non- profit government-certified organisation in Pollachi. She is affectionately known as Thaiyamma to inmates of this shelter for the abandoned and destitute.

She tells The Covaipost, “I was a college professor when my aged father came to live with me. He helped me achieve my dream of a shelter for orphaned children in January 2001. He formed a trust and gifted capital to start this institution. I began with a rented building and seven street children.”

Gradually they bought land in Kinathukadavu, where the district governor donated a building which became a home for orphans called Dhaya. “I then thought of a separate campus for mentally challenged people. This time Coimbatore Collector Muruganantham and Pollachi Sub-Collector Sundaramoorthy sanctioned land in Pollachi and it came to be called Jothi,” adds Vanitha.

Sharanalayam soon expanded to include Jheevan for HIV-affected children and women, an aged people’s home, a school for autistic children called Third Eye and an adoption centre called Sweehar. Third Eye has branches in Pollachi, Coimbatore and Kinathukadavu. It is managed by Vanitha’s daughter Sharanya Rangaraj, an autism expert who trained in the US.

“Our adoption agency registered with Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA), affiliated to Women and Child Development department, is the lone one for four districts. We send children periodically for adoption. This procedure covers legal formalities, screening of potential parents and regular feedback,” said Vanitha.

Sharanalayam’s services of food, boarding, lodging and medical facilities are free. Orphaned children are educated, provided jobs and even get married from here.

Vanitha now lives in the Kinathukadavu campus. “Twenty years have passed and people ask me how I did it. I credit it to my staff, family, government and the public for their help at different stages of Sharanalayam’s growth. No individual can do this alone. I am only God’s instrument. Besides, when we do cherished work problems fade,” she says.

Citing an example of help that pours in, she says that local businessmen gave discounted or credit sales, while rich and poor alike have donated several bags of rice, including ration rice for our institution’s needs. “We accept all this with love. I am so grateful for all their generosity,” says Vanitha.

Her next venture is a cancer hospice with subsidised or free treatment at Sharanalayam. Her elder daughter Shruti, studying in USA, is consulting with doctors and medical fraternity to establish it this December.

Sharanalayam also has old age homes for the wealthy whose income is used for bettering services. Vanitha does not accept mentally challenged persons with families. “Many families find them embarrassing and try to leave them here. We discourage such families, counsel them to care for the child or relative. Despite this, some will still be abandoned and brought to us through government sources,” says Vanitha.

In two decades, Sharanalayam has seen births and deaths. Its Cradle Baby facility has nurtured many unwanted children. “This is better than dumping them in garbage bins to be mauled by dogs. These babies will find loving families through CARA,” she concludes.

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