Saturday, 21 January 2017


[This post can be read independently. But if you are interested, the story starts here:]

In case you haven’t read parts [12and [13] of this series of posts I request you to please do so before reading the present post. It will provide the context for whatever I’m about to discuss and propose here. In part 12, just search for the phrase "Humanity Challenge" and read from there. That will suffice for the present purpose.

If you remember, I had put forward the idea of community run foster homes in the second half of part 12 wherein clusters of housing societies and neighbourhoods would collectively set up and manage foster homes that provide good living conditions, nutritious food, quality healthcare and education till a stage when the child becomes a responsible intelligent adult with a sound sense of self-worth and self-esteem and can integrate with the society at large and make it through life on his or her own. And during an individual’s years at such a foster home the members of the community managing it would befriend them, spend time with them, connect with them as human beings, counsel them in a manner that brings stability and clarity to their minds and hearts and inculcates a sense of confidence and self-respect in them.

Let me first clarify what I have in mind when I use the phrase “clusters of housing societies and neighbourhoods”. How large a set of people am I thinking of as belonging to a typical cluster?

I presently live in the Chittaranjan Park area of New Delhi which is also simply known as C. R. Park. I would peg the total population of C. R. Park at about 40000 residents. Structurally, it is organized in terms of about 19 blocks and pockets.

I would consider the entire C. R. Park area to be one such cluster.

An average contribution of only Rs. 100/- per month from each household (about 10000 of them if we assume about four people per household) would result in a net contribution of Rs. 1,20,00,000/- per year.

How many children and youth do we anticipate will stay in a foster home run by just the C. R. Park area? My guess would be no more than a hundred. With Rupees One Crore and Twenty Lakh available per year through a contribution of only Rs. 100/- per month from every household, can we not take care of these children really well?

Are you beginning to see what collective effort can achieve? Each finger may not be able to push aside poverty, helplessness and destitution from our society - but if the fingers curl together into a fist then I reckon we can pack quite a punch.

What about organizational and administrative aspects?

I think we can draw upon our knowledge of administrative structures in different organizations and bodies that we may already be familiar with and use what we think would work best. There may be different opinions on this and different clusters might use different organizational and administrative structures. I suggest one possibility that occurs to me keeping the block-pocket distribution of C. R. Park in mind:

Each block or pocket can nominate/elect an individual to be on the governing council of the foster home. This governing council can have a term of say three years and its members can elect a convener from amongst themselves to oversee the coordination and management details. The convenership can be on a yearly rotation so that the possibility of one person getting excessively fatigued with such a responsibility can be minimized. The governing council can also nominate individuals to oversee specific responsibilities such as accounts management, ensuring a sustained supply of utilities such as electricity, water and cooking fuel, running the kitchen, clothes provision, healthcare provision, education of children and youth staying at the foster home, etc. If the governing council so wishes, it can hire a small caretaking team that can stay at the home full time and interact with the governing council regularly.

This is one possible organizational structure that comes to my mind in the context of how one particular cluster that I am familiar with is organized. Needless to say, different clusters may implement different structures that work best for them. The main thing is to ensure that the goal of "providing good living conditions, nutritious food, quality healthcare and education till a stage when the child becomes a responsible intelligent adult with a sound sense of self-worth and self-esteem and can integrate with the society at large and make it through life on his or her own" is met. That's what's important at the end of the day no matter how we go about ensuring it happens.

Now for something that didn’t click in my mind till recently:

I believe it’s standard to think of foster homes and old age homes as separate entities that are designed to serve separate sets of people with their specific needs in mind. But think about this: Isn’t it a critical requirement in foster homes that there be grown up people who care for the children and youth staying there and guide them as they grow up? At the same time, wouldn’t it be nice if children and young people were present in old age homes to bring a sense of family to the senior citizens staying there?

Why not merge these two concepts into one? Change the title “community foster home” to “community home”. The community home would now house children and youth without parents as well as senior citizens with each set of people intermingling with the other and a spirit of caring for each other in place. Given their life circumstance, I would guess this spirit will come fairly easily. We can also explicitly discuss this aspect with the residents of the community home and make them understand the value of such a culture being in place.

I had put my guess on the number of children and youth staying at a home belonging to one cluster at being on more than a hundred. How many old people do you think would need to be cared for by any one such cluster?

There would be some who might be well off financially but would prefer to stay at such a community home instead of living independently (which would be understandable since it can sometimes be difficult to take care of oneself in old age) or with their children because they find the atmosphere in their homes oppressive or abusive. Such people would make the required financial contribution to enable their own stay. Their only requirement would be some amount of nursing and tending that sometimes becomes necessary in old age. And this requirement can be met to a large extent by the other residents of the community home themselves.

Then there might be some old people who just have nowhere to go. I see such people on the roads often, begging for a few rupees so that they can just get by their days somehow. I would once again peg the number of such people who would need to be accommodated in a community home being run by one cluster as being no more than a hundred.

If the above quoted net contribution of about Rs. 1,20,00,000/- per year falls short of what is required to care for a total of about two hundred old people and children and youth without their own families, maybe we can think of an average contribution of Rs. 200/- per household per month. That's still very very nominal and would add up to Rs. 2,40,00,000/- per year. I believe that will be more than enough for our purpose.

I reckon we have a good situation emerging, a very good situation: If we are willing to organize ourselves in clusters like this and share the overall responsibility I think we can ensure that not one child or youth grows up uncared for and feeling like an orphan and not one old person need feel abandoned and go through hardships in their old age.

Are you with me :) ? If you're feeling that all this is too new and are having doubts about whether it can be pulled off, just go over this post once again and mull over what I'm saying. Maybe I've got some numbers off and the figures need to be revised at places but I'm pretty sure that I'm zoning in nicely on the fact that such an effort is well within our reach. I think the only real challenge is being able to overcome whatever resistance we may be feeling in our minds.

What was it that John Lennon said once? "It's easy if you try..."

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