R Vasundara & L Saravanan,
SALEM: The website of the Indian Christian Mission Centre (ICMC) at Salem makes a heart-rending plea for more money from donors for orphans and poor children. Jamie Briggs who works with a church in Connecticut, USA was quite impressed when he saw this. But when he visited the Promised Land orphanage at Paruthikadu, he found the conditions quite squalid.
Alongside were several schools and colleges, part of the same group. “They said they use the money for the children’s needs,” he said. “But when I went there, it looked like they were building lots of colleges with that money.” On returning home, Briggs lodged a complaint with the American Director on their International Board of Directors.
In 2010-11, the ICMC declared their annual foreign contribution received to be 3.34 crore. Expenditure that year was 3.95 crore of which 1.4 crore was spent on orphans and 85 lakh on establishment expenses. Ask an expert in the field and they would tell you that 1.4 crore per annum may not be adequate to maintain an orphanage. “Depends on the number of children housed there,” said Glory Gunaseelan, superintendent of the Government Home for Boys in Royapuram in Chennai.
According to the ICMC website, they house 2000 odd children in their home. “Numbers have gone down now, it is only 700 children,” said Revered Jayaraj Krishnan, founder of ICMC. Ashok Kumar, the manager of the orphanage said, “I think the number of children is around 450 here.”
“Judging by my experience in running a home, a sum of 1.6 crore per annum would be quite inadequate to house 450 children,” reasons Glory. “Mats, blankets and pillows alone will form a regular expenditure as young children cannot maintain them very well, naturally.” A visit to the orphanage by the scribe showed that the dorms were converted classrooms each housing 20 children who slept on the floor on torn mats. There were no pillows. This was confirmed by Devaki, a district probationary officer in Salem. Malliga (name changed), an ayah reported that the food given contained very little vegetable and non vegetarian food was given only around Christmas. Bathrooms are open enclosures fitted with showerheads which makes them vulnerable to abuse.
However, the organization runs four colleges including one in Salem city besides three schools which are all open to outsiders as well. A medical college and a hospital are under construction now in the Promised Land. “All these buildings have been constructed using funding money,” said Ashok Kumar. “We get no aid from the government. We barely have any money,” said Jayaraj Krishnan. “It looks like we barely have any money to pay our car drivers, who we pay 7,000 a month.” The organization, however, has 300 employees according to their website and has several pedigree dogs roaming about the premises.