Vatsalya is a Sanskrit word which means ‘unconditional motherly love’; the organisation was registered as a charity in 1995. Mrs. Jaimala Gupta grew up in a well off family and it was a childhood dream of hers to work with street children and improve the quality of their lives. Her husband Hitesh also shared this passion, expressing a strong interest in public health. The pair have an impressive educational background. Hitesh completed his PhD from Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, Pilani, India after he earned a Masters in Public Health from University of North Carolina, USA. Jaimala has a Masters in Food and Nutrition and a Masters in Public Health, also from the University of North Carolina.
In the initial years of Vatsalya, the couple kept their full time jobs as they needed a source of income. Jaimala was working at the Indian Institute of Health Management Research and Hitesh was a teaching faculty member in Health management. They soon realised however that in order to make a lasting impact, they both needed to be fully devoted to Vatsalya. Therefore in 2000, they both quit their respective jobs and that’s when the organisation’s truely took off. Their decision coincided with the sad loss of Jaimala’s mother, Mahashweta Devi, whose gifted assets to her daughter initiated Vatsalya’s first few activities.
The first activity was a street children’s project that was run from Hitesh and Jaimala’s house. In 2002, when the activity grew to 13 children, they relocated the centre to a site with rented rooms. The couple realised they needed to find more space so that they could reach out to more children. Their aim was to create a children’s village, away from the temptations and dangers of the city. In 2002, they located a plot of land, located at an hour’s drive out of Jaipur. With this find, their main project of a village for orphaned and abandoned children was founded.
Today, Vatsalya is an ever expanding NGO with a wide range of projects that target marginalised communities and aim to improve their lives. Emphasis is placed upon the dignity of the individual. In Hitesh’s own words, Vatsalya is a ‘catalyst for developing people’s capabilities’.
Hitesh and Jaimala are recognised as pioneers in the field of care and public health and are often invited to speak at international conferences to educate others on the work they do. In Rajasthan, they run training programs which are used to train government care homes.