The principle of the multiple-generation-house (2009)
Having set up Suksandhya in 2004 to care for the needs of older and infirm women, Maher soon realized that these women were getting irritated with each other and there was no joy on their faces. The Organisation thought that it would help the women to have children living in the same premises so they set up Chayadham House in 2009.
Although Chayadham can house fifteen children, ten girls initially came to live there. They were able to interact with the older women and encourage them to be young at heart and they could help in organizing activities to prevent the grannies from getting bored. The home also works well for the children because the presence of the older women is a great comfort and some girls even have their own grandmothers living there. It is wonderful to see the small children helping their grannies in simple tasks – maybe in giving them a little water to drink, assisting them in washing their hands or sitting with them and helping them eat. The house is joyful and busy with children singing and playing and although the older women sometimes get irritated by the childrens noise, the staff are always on hand to help and ensure a happy environment is maintained. With children and older women living together the house no longer looks like an aged home but a place of laughter and joy.
Vatsalyadham, Manjari Khurd
A world more humane and compassionate: Inauguration of Vatsalyadham and Sukhasandhya (2004)
How a country treats and values its elderly or mentally challenged people is extremely important and too often neglected. The establishment of Sukh Sandhya (at the close of the day) and Vatsalyadham (‘abode of love and compassion’) at Manjari Khurd, provides some of Indias unloved and unwanted older women with human dignity. Many of the residents have mental health problems or have been rejected by their families. Others have physical problems which mean they are unable to care for themselves.
Sister Lucy had the idea for such a project for many years, hating simply to pass by the older ladies she often saw sleeping on the roadside or on shop verandahs. She was already picking up mentally challenged and mentally challenged women from the streets and housing them.
It was on 29 February 2004, with a simple prayer service to mark its opening, that Sister Lucy, along with some willing Maher staff – Surigita Social worker, Taslim Nurse and Manda – Care Giver, started the Project, initially looking after three older ladies. The inauguration was attended by three very eminent citizens of Pune: the late Mr. Vijay Tendulkar, famous Marathi playwright; Dr. Madhavrao Sanap, social activist and former member of the IPS and Ms Deepa Shriram, noted Marathi actor.
Creation of facilities and infrastructure in a big way – a new building for Vatsalyadham (2008)
Located on a 4-acre plot of land that Maher had acquired in 2002, the new building for Vatsalyadham, the largest of Maher facilities, was declared open on the 11th Maher anniversary on February 2, 2008. The function was presided over by the Union Agriculture Minister, Mr. Sharad Pawar who went around the complex and congratulated Sister Lucy for her recommendable work for the destitute women.
The new building also accommodated the children from Maher children’s homes in Manjari Khurd and left the aged women of Sukhsandhya to enjoy greater living space for themselves.
Later Father Marcel donated beds for the older women and the size of the old hall was increased by breaking down an existing partition and moving the office to an adjacent room. It was in 2008 that the home for older women was officially named Sukh Sandhya. Many of these women were found when they were about to die, having been disowned by their families and already infested with maggots and lice. The staff work hard to give them quality care, with serenity and dignity, in a secure home. Sister Lucy believes that these women should know that they are loved until their lives end and she has plans to provide them with an even better facility in the future.
Two new children’s homes (2008)
After Maher established a home for mentally challenged women Vatsalyadham at Manjari Khurd, Sister Lucy wanted to proceed with her vision to develop a childrens home in the same building.
Many women that Maher rescues from the streets are found with their children and some women are pregnant. Although their mental health issues prevent them from caring adequately for their children, to be separated from them can increase the womens depression. In some cases keeping the children with their mothers could prove very dangerous since they may try to kill them. Creating two rooms, Nilkamal and Sonchafa, on a separate floor at Vatsalyadham, means that the children are safe because they do not sleep with the mentally challenged women but it also means that mothers and their children live close by and can meet up. This makes everybody happy.