Cdr.Almeida the founder Principal of Sainik School, Korukonda used to be a regular visitor to Hyderabad in the early 90s to meet and spend some time with his old students. In almost every meeting he would exhort the alumni to do something for the society. He never failed to remind us that we Saikorians were a privileged lot having benefited through excellent schooling and upbringing. It was payback time, he always said.
Though we did give a lot of thought to what he said, we could not come to any conclusion on the exact nature of socially relevant activity that could be taken up. Most often heated discussions would take place on the various options of which care of children and old people (as suggested by Cdr.Almeida) were more common but no decision ever came forth till much later when a certain piquant situation forced us into action..
During those days, we were running a sort of a club in a rented house located in Methodist colony, Begumpet. Reasonably well organized with a small kitchen and kitted with a few indoor games materials, it acted like a watering hole for Saikorians from across the State and the country or some times, even abroad where we would often gather to socialize and catch up on old times. There was a lot of socializing and noisy merry making as is invariably the case whenever Saikorians meet. Since the club was located in a residential area a few complaints from the neighbors especially during late evening hours were not uncommon. At times it would be difficult to control the boisterous bonhomie and enthusiasm that erupts when Saikorians gather and soon it came to such a stage when we had no option but to shut the place. That moment triggered serious introspection and we realized that we must instead do something positive for the society than be a source of nuisance to the neighborhood.
Since we still had possession of the rented premises, the kitchen and sports equipment, all we had to do was find a use for it. It was sometime in early 1994 when we finally decided to start a home for children. Our reasoning was that most of us Saikorians were still young and would be more comfortable in dealing with children than with old people. We deliberated for a while on the kind of children that we would like to handle – orphans, street children, mentally/physically challenged children etc. Finally we zeroed in on street children. Having decided on the target group, we had no clue on how to go about starting a home for street children let alone on how to handle them. Manohar (Gimmy) who had extensive contacts with Hyderabad based NGOs, contacted an organization dealing with street children and sought their assistance.
This particular NGO was running a couple of night shelters for street children in Hyderabad. Their model was simple. The children did the rag picking (or whatever activity they were involved in)during the day, and came to the night shelter to stay and probably have a bath and a hot meal. No effort was made to educate them or to take them away from the streets. We told them that we were interested in adopting a different model . Our aim was to try to wean the children away from the streets and put them through the education process. This, they said was impossible. Street children are fiercely independent and not amenable to change, they asserted. We said that we’d still like to try it out. All we asked the organization was to take some promising children from their night shelters and place them in our home – we had already given it the name ‘KRUSHI’ by then. The only condition we laid was that the children will no longer go back to the streets and will spend full time studying, playing and becoming children all over again. Since we did not know how to run a home for street children we requested this organization to run it for us and we would meet all the expenses. They reluctantly agreed and sent 7 children along with Krishna a coordinator. The Home was run in this manner for about a year. The expenditure was coming to around Rs.7500 per month and we were chipping in with our contributions. We did not interfere with the day to day functioning of the Home and were content to just interact with the children and generally keep and eye on the activities. The strength kept wavering from 7 to 15 during this period. Most of the boys would be brought from Secunderabad railway station by Krushi volunteers. Some of them would barely stay a day in Krushi before hitting the streets again. Some stayed a little longer before being lured by the streets. The drop out rate was more than 80% . We also found that the managers of the Home were only interested in statistics and not in educating or reforming the children . After a year or so, we decided to take over the management of the Home to ourselves and see if we could do a better job.It was ,without doubt, an extremely bold decision taken by us at that time. We, however, decided to put in our best and roped in a couple of Saikorians and their spouses or ladies in Methodist colony, to mentor the boys in Krushi on a regular basis. Persistent efforts put in by us over the next couple of months paid off and we found that the children began to show interest in schooling and in staying on in Krushi. The drop out rate reduced to about 50%. This was definitely an encouraging trend. With the older boys becoming reasonably stable, the newer inmates automatically fell in line- at least most of them.
Over the next few years, the strength went up gradually and stabilized at around 35(any further additions not being possible with living space being a big constraint). Even this number was possible only because some of the older boys were admitted in the Government Social Welfare Hostel located in Mahendra Hills. The Home would be jam packed during vacation time. Children would be noisy, playful and generally all over the place but the neighbours never complained. On the contrary, it would be a common sight to see neighbours dropping in to spend time with the children. Quite often kids from the neighbourhood would come and play cricket with Krushi children on the road or across the railway track.
We did cover quite a distance within a short span of time . From an unwanted entity in the neighbourhood we moved on to become a highly motivated and committed organization determined to do its bit to the society.