Partner Speak - Mr. Isaac Arulappan, Chief Functionary, DKSHA
It was way back in 2013 when I was looking for funding partners to bring in support for education for the children in my care. I remember hearing about the Miracle Foundation from one of my friends and decided to connect with them. The next thing I was doing was writing an expression of interest and the rest is history. Eight years of a strong association with the heart to empower children to the best of their potential - we have been partners in the real sense of the word.
Having come from a humble background, I lost my parents at the age of 10. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to live under foster parental care of the Montfort Brothers. I was provided with care, shelter, and educational support till my graduation. Reflecting back on the years I spent in institutional care, I decided to dedicate my life to children with no parental care and for the marginalized in the nearby local communities. Close friends joined hands with me to help children access better education. Gradually, we expanded our work from institutional care to community programs and beyond. Support began pouring in and the zest to do better for the children became stronger.
Initially, when we began work with Miracle - our focus was to provide quality and enhanced standards of care to children. We strengthened our systems, tracked every intervention, empowered children with their rights, and also enabled the support staff to provide quality care. In 2018, the team shared their concern about the global movement on institutional care being the last resort for orphan children. It wouldn’t be long before that this movement gained momentum in India and children would be just sent back overnight. It was the time to re-think what I wanted for these children and if there was a way, I could make their childhood more fulfilling. This transition to a family-based care model would be a leap from the work we had been doing but it was crucial. After much thought, discussion with the team and the future of these children - I jumped on the wagon and re-strategized my vision along with that of the Foundation. For the past two years, we have been working together to transition children from institutional care to family-based/alternative care. Their methodology not just helped us bring quality care for children but also strengthened us as an organization with consistent mentoring and knowledge sharing.
This transition to a family-based care model required adaptability at our end at all levels - the staff was retrained on the new model of FBC, mentored on newly introduced tools, and strengthened skills per se to take on this program. The Miracle team walked with us hand in hand and helped us ease into this transition through one-to-one dialogues, cross visits, engagement with the local bodies, sharing of our visions, and most importantly the belief that everything we do will be in the best interest of the child. In this case, a family is irreplaceable and every child out there belongs in a family.
It has been a learning process for us and each training has left us stronger to implement re-integration for these children. The resources and toolkits provided us are valuable but the training has been integral in this whole journey. Even as COVID hit last year, it did not defer our work - in fact, we stepped up to ensure children got home safely and permanently using their expedited case management tool. It has been a journey and I am happy to share that we have re-integrated 43 children in the last year - happily settled in families, continuing their education, and accessing other services. But our work is not over yet - we will continue to mentor and monitor these children in families with the guidance of Miracle and continue to take care of children awaiting transition.
CFO- DIKSHA Cornerstone -Trichy, Tamil Nadu