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
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,"
"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.
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