El Shaddai was founded by two individuals from very different backgrounds. They lived on opposite sides of the world but shared the same idea. One of them is Anita Edgar , a grandmother, who lives in Devon, UK. In December 1996, she took a last minute holiday to India to rejuvinate from her long working hours as a nurse. But her first three days in the country, made her more uneasy than an peace. And it was the sight of street children, some begging, some rag picking, others forced to collect rubbish for recycling – all just to survive! She learnt that they were ‘untouchables,’ so had no birth certificates, and were denied education and healthcare. Seeing so many children like this, for the first time in her life, clearly had an impact. She felt compelled to do something and it was whilst praying one morning that the idea came to her to open homes for deprived children and orphans. Later, she met a young Christian on the beach who introduced her to the Faith Community Church and their Pastor, Matthew Kurian, who is El Shaddai’s second founder.
Matthew originates from a well off family in Kerala. He always felt out of place in his comfortable world and found himself rebelling against the hypocrisy of Indian society. He was an Atheist but during his adult life converted to Christianity and went on to become a Pastor. On completing his studies in Theology, he moved to Goa in 1993.
Due to issues he had experienced with his father in the past, he wanted to help alcoholics and those with substance abuse issues. One day, he met a slum dweller and visited his slum with him. It was this chance meeting that gave him the answer. He realised what he wanted to do; he thus, started teaching children in the area and providing them with basic medical care.
Matthew received no help in this venture and did not realise the whole charity concept, he simply wanted to help who he could. In 1996, he set up a shed in a slum, paying Rs. 600 a month to two women to teach the children. It was only after Matthew and Anita’s meeting that El Shaddai was established; when they realised they were a well-matched team.
Anita returned to England and started raising funds for a Children’s Home. As funds started coming in, she returned to Goa and set up a school and health clinic in the slums. A search was soon underway for a suitable property for the first Children’s Home. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, El Shaddai is a well-established organisation. Besides Goa (Maharashtra), they also have presence in Karnataka, and Kerala. Their projects include residential homes, day care and night shelters, a school, and cottages for adolescents.