India Direct in the Beginning
In 1995, Pastor Martin borrowed his air fare and flew from Chennai to England, hoping to find support for his charitable work amongst the poorest people in South India, work he believed God had given to him to do.
Martin and his wife Annie had already started by renting a mud hut to house 7 orphans, but during the monsoon rains it flooded and was washed away. The children were often sick and one small child died from drinking contaminated water. Martin’s vision was to build them a proper home, to give them love, care, education and skills to help themselves out of poverty but he had no money and no government help.
During his stay in the UK, he made friends in Macclesfield who caught his vision and began supporting his work to build a children’s home called Bethel to provide for 20 children as well as community meeting area and accommodation for Annie and Martin. Work began to find each child a sponsor to cover their expenses. Pastor Martin had been given a small plot of land and, as initial donations came in from the UK, a boundary fence was built, a borehole was dug to access clean water and the foundations for a children’s home were laid. The children moved in as soon as the ground floor was completed. It took 2 years to complete the project but no one complained. The children’s patience was incredible and they soon began to thrive.
By the time the number of children reached 30, the home had become very overcrowded and funds to build a second, larger Bethel Children’s Home were raised. The first home now serves as accommodation for older children who have left the children’s home or are in need, and is the head office for the Love and Care Charitable Trust. The community room is used regularly by the local community.
The current Bethel Children’s Home is home to 53 happy, healthy children who are receiving a good education. In addition to the home, we began a Widows’ Care Program which offers basic financial support to 30 widows and their children in the local community, allowing them to send their children to school and keep a roof over their heads.
Everything Changes: Tsunami strikes on 26th December 2004
On Boxing Day 2004 the Tsunami stuck the South East Coast of India, just 15 miles away from Bethel Children’s Home in Chennai.
India Direct Trustees were visiting at that time and witnessed the aftermath of the disaster, seeing first-hand the devastating effect it had on people’s lives, especially further south along the coast in the hardest-hit fishing villages.
When the true enormity of the disaster became apparent, it was decided that Dave and two locals would buy 150 sets of clothes, blankets and bed mats, and drive 300km south to visit remote coastal villages near Nagalpattinam, where people were much less able to help themselves than in the nearby coastal areas of Chennai. It was 3 days after the disaster when they arrived and the air was filled with the smell of death. They distributed their aid through local churches and invited people to tell their stories. These interviews were filmed to help fund-raising back in the UK.
Dave realised that with so many children orphaned perhaps their best contribution would be to use their knowledge of orphanages, renting some houses further back from the coast. Each one could house, feed, educate and care for 20 children with two staff for the cost of about £100 per week. Annie, Pastor Martin and Omega, the Trustees of the ‘Love and Care Charitable Trust’ (the Indian Christian partner charity to India Direct) and other pastors in the local area would supervise them. We gave emergency shelter, food, clothing and medical care to more than 100 vulnerable children
This would provide permanent homes for orphans and could give parents temporary respite to re-establish their livelihoods without the financial burden of caring for their children. A further advantage was that the money fed into the community via local contacts went directly to the most needy without fear of any bureaucratic delays.
It soon became apparent that most of the children would need long-term care because even parents and relatives who had survived the Tsunami had no means to care for them. As a result, we began raising funds to build a second children’s home, named ‘Joy’ by the villagers. The home was located in Poraiyar village so that family bonds could remain strong and locals were reassured that their children were properly cared for.
After 3 long years of fundraising and building-work, the children moved from the original overcrowded houses into a spacious new home. Today we have a community of wonderful, vivacious children whose lives have been transformed and who dare to dream about a better future. This has been made possible through the love and care of our Indian partners, the staff in the homes, and the financial aid, gifts and prayers of our amazing supporters and child sponsors.
Our Widows’ Care Program expanded as we assisted other families who lost everything in the waves and Joy Tailoring School was established to retrain young women who were no longer able to work as fish vendors.
It has been a privilege to be involved in this work and to see first-hand the amazing difference our contributions can make. Today, many people still care about injustice and suffering and want to find a charity they can trust with their money to make a difference in the lives of the poor. India Direct, in association with the Love and Care Charitable Trust, does just that.