Every child deserves to have a memorable childhood and fruitful education which leads to good job opportunities, but for many that dream is just that — a dream, unattainable due to various circumstances. But those running the Maa Illu Prajadharana Ashramam, an orphanage home to nearly 220 orphans beg to differ.
Nestled amidst nature in Regadi Thanda village, Zaffergadh mandal, Warangal district, Maa Illu Prajadharana Ashramam is run by Gade Inna Reddy, who was an active participant during the Telangana agitation struggle.
Started in 2006, Maa Illu was initially home to 32 orphans. The number increased as it began to accept children with single parents unable to support them financially, besides those who were abandoned. Today, close to 220 children and youngsters in the age group of 5-25 years live here.
Poojitha Panjugula lost her parents at a young age and was staying with her maternal uncle’s family for a while. However, things didn’t work out and she was brought to this orphanage and began to live here after completing her matriculation. “I am extremely lucky to have been accepted into this place. Many of us don’t have anyone else or any place to call home. I completed my intermediate, graduation and post-graduation while staying in the ashramam.”
All the children here live like one family and call each other akka and anna. Poojitha says, “In any orphanage, if the girls attain puberty, they send them to their relative’s place or find options to send them to some other place, but in Maa Illu, daddy and mummy (Gade Inna Reddy and his wife Pushpa Rani) take care of us like their own children. All the children go to school and colleges.”
When it comes to admissions in schools and colleges, they write the names of Gade Inna Reddy and his wife in the columns meant for parents’ names. “Many of the children here don’t even know what their actual names are, let alone caste. So, we do away with the ‘Reddy’ surname so they are eligible for privileges,” says Poojitha.
Just as children deal with their own set of problems at home, it’s a similar situation at Maa Illu. “When boys and girls attain puberty and are dealing with hormonal changes, it is quite common to feel attracted to the other gender and be uncomfortable with bodily changes. We help them accept these changes and experiences with counselling,” says Poojitha.
Any place where a large number of people are staying for a long time needs some sort of structure to have some semblance of normalcy. At the orphanage, past inmates who have completed their graduation are placed in different positions to run the place. “Nearly 10 girls and boys are working here in different roles. We have also appointed a boy and a girl in charge,” says Poojitha who works as public relations officer for Maa Illu.
The orphanage runs on donations from NRIs and donations by people in the form of provisions, books and clothes. “We also celebrate birthdays of children whose birth dates are known. For the last four years, we have started to celebrate birthdays of 72 children, whose birthdays are unknown, on August 28 every year. We also invite VIPs for the occasion who were either orphans or came from a poor background and became successful in life to encourage the children,” says Poojitha.
The education qualifications, especially among girls here, is admirable. Many of them are highly educated with MBAs and graduated with top honours from National Institute of Technology (NIT), Warangal. “Many girls are of marriageable age now. Our daddy, Gade is looking for suitable grooms for them, but they don’t want to leave their home and are disinterested in marriage,” adds Poojitha.
Maa Illu is also helping other orphanages and took up the initiative to fight for their fundamental rights. “In the last six years, we have conducted many national campaigns at State and national level and procured government orders for the benefit of orphans,” signs off Poojitha.