Morung Express Feature
Dimapur | March 28
Pongba (name changed) is only five but narrates his life before 2014 with precision. “I used to live on the rail tracks (in Dimapur). We would go to Murgipatti at night and collect waste to eat,” he says in Nagamese, referring to his friends and him. Why did you go only at night, someone asks. “We felt ashamed to go in the daytime,” replies the prompt Pongba. The whereabouts of his parents are unknown, and Pongba now lives under the care of a children’s home in Dimapur called the Love Care Home (LCH).
The story of the unknown number of orphaned children in Nagaland merely starts from here. At LCH, some of these stories come pouring out alongside tears. Yari (name changed) was four by when her parents were no more. A relative would keep her shut in a room all day, in isolation, and then beat her up for urinating or passing stool in the room without a toilet. Now 12, she begins to cry as she bravely stands up to share her story. Someone in the neighbourhood intervened and brought her to LCH.
Then there is John (name changed) whose drunken relatives, who brought him to LCH, never call or come to meet him. At the age of eight, he is a fan of cricket with a knack for bowling, he softly reveals. Lemba (name changed) is 15, one of the oldest, and was brought to LCH five years back with myriad illnesses and medicines. NK Keny, their legal guardian and the woman who runs the LCH, made him switch to local medication made out of leaves. Lemba is today a confident teenager who is determined to become a doctor and “help those in need.”
Love Care Home
When some of the 18 children currently living at Love Care Home were brought to her, NK Keny had no space to accommodate them at the thatch and tin structure that is the LCH. “We were full!” she says, “but some of them were so traumatised, we fit them in somehow.” Now they all sleep together in a small room with numerous single beds lined with mosquito nets. The children sit around a table sharing their stories which, Keny explains, only they can do justice to.
Keny set up LCH in 2002 at Darogapathar in Dimapur. It is a registered, voluntary, not for profit charitable organisation registered under the Nagaland Societies Act, aiming to provide underprivileged children with food, shelter, clothes, education, dignity and hope.
The children at LCH are orphans and semi orphans from poor backgrounds. Many came to her when they were below five years of age. Some have lived with her for more than 12 years. Keny does not give her children away for adoption. She works with miniscule funds, yet tries to send all the children at the LCH to school. Albeit small, help always comes to their doorstep through friends and well wishers. “Through prayers,” she affirms.
“From there, we manage. First 10% is left aside as tithe, and 3% is distributed among the children for shopping for essential items. Once items are here, we assign duties. For example, one child has the duty of squeezing out an equal amount of toothpaste to all the children every morning. This is how we get by,” she smiles, with the children in tow. With limited resources, they tend to a garden and knit little dolls to enhance other skills.
But life is not easy without systematic funding. Water, for instance, is a perennial issue. Keny managed to get a well dug on the LCH compound some years back that provides muddy water. The water is purified using two old basic sand-and-charcoal purifiers, boiled and consumed. Then there is the problem of affording private tuition for the children who reach higher grades. When medical conditions arise, so does a financial crisis.
Keny admits as much. After they complete their Class 10, she finds the closest relative and sends the children to them. “Even they cry, even I cry,” she says, as they all rise up in prayer to end their day. Till the day of departure arrives, they move on in solidarity.
If you would like to help these children, call +91 9436065617/8131066297, or email firstname.lastname@example.org