Apna Ghar (Our Home) was set up in 2000 by Dr. Bhardwaj and his wife Dr. Madhuri.
Dr. Bhardwaj was born into a farming family in Sehroli Village, Uttar Pradesh. He distinctly recalls the incident, though it happened when he was just 12 years old, that prompted him to spend the rest of his days serving the needy. There used to be an 80 year old Chiranjeev Baba, who took cows of the entire village for grazing. Chiranjeev Baba had no family of his own. One day, Chiranjeev Baba had a fall and his injuries prevented him from walking. As he was not able to take the cows for grazing, the entire village learnt of his fall. Despite this, he did not receive timely treatment and his injuries eventually attracted maggots. Simply because no one actively came out to help him – everyone wanted to but no one did. He says, “Sahyog karne wale bahut hote, par koi zimedaariwala nahi hota. Yehi zimedaari nibhane ke liye humne Apna Ghar shuru kiya hai.”
The organisation was been set up in 2000 by him and his wife – both Homeopathy doctors, who met in college. Her desire to work with needy children and his to work for the underprivileged resulted in their marriage as well as the setting up on Apna Ghar. Of course they started small scale – with just 23 children off the streets whom they fed and cared for. Their family wasn’t very encouraging initially either. But they’ve supported each other over the years in following their heart’s desire.
There have been tons of other challenges along the way too. But the two doctors and their team truly believe that if one is doing good work, one has nothing to worry about. They say, “When so many things beyond our control fell into place overnight, we truly started believing in God.”
Like happened with regards to their Delhi center. Due to open on the 11th of Novemeber 2014, the building where the center is located has been given to them free-of-cost. The landlord initially refused to budge on the market rate rent he was initially asking them for; but had a complete change of heart after he visited their Bharatpur center!
Infact, incidents like these over the years have changed his outlook completely. He recalls, “5-7 years ago, I used to wonder what the Prabhujis would do without us.” But today, they believe that they are simply executing God’s work.”
Infact during our conversation, when he told me that he is only doing the work of God, I added “through you,” he was quick to correct me, “Please don’t forget my team of 150 nor the innumerable donors who have supported us through the years. It would just not have been possible without their support.” This humble and thankful attitude is visible through campus – through boards with lists of donors – those whose money has been used for setting up buidlings, for running the kitchen etc. Infact, there’s even a board depicting a wishlist at the main office’s reception, humbly called “Thakurji ko Apna Ghar ki awashyaktaon ki chitti.”
I spent 2 days and 1 night at the organisation’s Bharatpur campus. The guest room I stayed at was in the same bulding where Dr. Bharadwaj and Dr. Madhuri stay along with their 50 odd children. These are children of the women Prabhuji’s – of those who came in with their babies and others who came in pregnant. Their natural mothers are not mentally fit enough to bring them up (nor put them up for adoption), so they are brought up by the doctor couple – who are referred to us “Mummyji” and “Papaji” lovingly by the children.
They live as one big family with lady caretakers helping in preparing their food, bathing them etc. A tutor runs a mini-creche on campus itself for those below 5 years; those above 5 years go to the Bharatpur Public School. I was happy to see that a check was kept on the kids’ homework and that their play and TV-time was monitored too.
A 100 new destitutes are admitted into Apna Ghar every month. The organisation manages to reunite 50-60 of these to their families; 40 remain here till they last breath.From a small building that cared for 23 destitutes in 2000, Apna Ghar has 8 centers (in Delhi, Bikaner, Ajmer, Kota, Alwar, Kokilavan, Jodhpur) today. Dr. Bharadwaj recalls, “In 2005, it took a lot of guts to quit my Homeopathy practise to dedicate all my time to Apna Ghar. After all, losing the monthly donation of Rs. 5,000 (the practise brought in) was a big deal.”
All centers have been set up in cities where there is a dire need for the same. The biggest prerequisite is that a building is available to set the same up at a free/very low rental. The organisation then ensures that it is rightly run ( Infact, Dr. Bharadwaj is involved in setting up the center while his wife is in charge of running the same). Along with donations, the organisation encourages people to call them informing them of destitutes living in pitiable condition off the streets. After all, their vision is, “to have a safe, secure and homely environment where helpless, deprived, sick persons would never lost their life in harsh and painful condition for the lack of help and medical support” and it’s clear that their heart and soul is behind making this a reality.