No matter what I put down here, my words will not do justice to my visit to El Shaddai. The Kurians extended their welcome to me by inviting me to stay at their old Children’s Home, which is where El Shaddai volunteers now stay.
On my first day, I visited Shanti Niketan, which is a school that was set up in 2001 for children at the home . While it mainly services children who live at El Shaddai care homes, there are a number of day scholars too. Currently, 300 children between the age of 4–18 years attend Shanti Niketan.
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.
El Shaddai welcomes volunteers to come and work with them across their projects. Matthew reinforced the importance of the children mixing with people outside of the homes, especially foreigners due to the fact that this shows the children that they are not untouchable or worthless. Volunteers do not have caste biases and this opens the children’s eyes and increases their ambitions. Most volunteers spend their time teaching at Shanti Niketan or helping out in the care homes. They add cultural richness to the children’s lives and are a great asset. El Shaddai has a volunteer house with a kitchen, bathroom and even WiFi! Due to these facilities, El Shaddai requires that every volunteer pays for all their trip expenses, including a donation to the charity itself, equating to 100 US dollars.
Rewards and Recognition
• • The government of India has instituted the Rajiv Gandhi ManavSeva Award to honour individuals for outstanding contribution towards Child Development, Protection & Welfare, 2007-2008
• In 2012 El Shaddai received the National Award for Child Welfare to give state recognition to voluntary activities in the field of child welfare and development
• Matthew Kurian, received the Excellence Award for National Social Activity 2012 from the Global Achievers Foundation in the month of April 2012
• Mr. Kurian was honoured for his Outstanding Individual Achievements and Distinguished Services to the Nation during the occasion of National Seminar on Individual Contribution for Social & Economic Growth in 2012
• In 2012 El Shaddai was awarded with “Spirit of Humanity Awards” in the Child Nutrition Category from the AmeriCares India Foundation. El Shaddai Charitable Trust was shortlisted as one of the final five nominees in the whole of India and emerged as the winner of this award.