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Students come to aid of Varanasi's riverside poor

Sunday November 21, 2010 12:02:16 PM, Asit Srivastava, IANS

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Varanasi: A walk by the river to take the mind away from the hard grind of studies led a group of college students to become caretakers of the homeless and poor in a village near this ancient town sacred to Hindus.

Like other final year students, the group of seven from various colleges in Varanasi too has their eyes in the clouds, setting high goals. But classroom pressure did not stop them from taking up a responsibility that defies their age and experience.

The students, all from middle-class families, opened Matra Chhaya, a home for destitute old people and street children, on the outskirts of Varanasi's Karsana village. It now houses 15 children and six elders.

"Matra Chhaya is our second home. The people there are like our own family members," Sumit Upadhyay, final year B.Sc student of Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, told IANS.

"It's great to see those poor children smile, laugh and play. The elders bless us, putting their hands on our head. We feel very proud when people appreciate our work," he said.

The idea of such a shelter initially came up in the minds of three students in December 2009. They used to meet regularly along the banks of the river Ganga.

"I used to visit the ghat (bank) regularly in the evening to divert my mind from the text books. I used to see several old destitute and poor children helplessly watching people pass them by," Sumit recalled.

"One day I came across a woman, who appeared to be from a well-off family. She was sitting alone on a raised platform near the ghat, crying. After repeated queries, she finally said her two sons had abandoned her 10 days after her husband died.

"While we were talking, Kishan Shah and Vinay Kumar, the other two students, joined us. We sought help from a social welfare organisation, which later took the woman to an old-age centre," Sumit said.

"We decided to meet every week to help the poor at the ghat," said Vinay Kumar, a B.Com student from Harish Chandra Degree College.

The group worked hard on it, bought food and clothes for the helpless. Later the three decided things would be better if they could set up a shelter home. A relative offered Vinay and his friends one of his vacant buildings to house the destitute.

"We felt that god himself wanted us to take up the project. We renovated the two-room two-hall building and opened Matra Chhaya in January 2010," Vinay proudly said.

Soon afterwards their friends joined the project and the group sought help from several NGO officials to help run the home.

Matra Chhaya's children are in the 12-15 age group. They take care of the elders there, who in return help the children learn lessons on what love and care mean in everybody's life.

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at






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