Widows of India/Om Shanthi

This project began at a grass-roots level after one of Anna Etter´s annual visits to Tiruvannamalai/India. Anna is a citizen of Germany. In 2005, as she walked along a dusty central road, she noticed a dying woman under a bundle of rags along the side of the road. Both of them looked at each other – a moment, which Anna could never forget in her life until now. “Her eyes looked straight into my heart” Anna said later. This inspired Anna to learn more about the life of Indian´s widows, which was so shocking, that she felt a deep sense of urgency to find ways to help abandoned women and widows and their children in India.  This is the power of the love shared through all your kindnesses!

2016 Update

It has been 8 years since Anna began active efforts to help the widows. Many good things have happened: Om Shanthi Old Age Home was donated by Shanthimalai Ashram and housed 12 old homeless women in 2012.  Since 2007 they also supported women without any means with 300 Rupies monthly (about 7 $). At the end they had 130 women who got this financial support. In the meantime their social worker was busy to apply for the government widow rent for the widows, who were themselves not able to read and write, and they still do so.  So, when most of the 130 widows got their legal widow rent, they stopped their monthly support and started their help for young widows and their children.

A second Om Shanthi Old Age Home has been finished in 2015 adjacent to the existing home, so that now 25 old homeless women are housed and fed. Up to now they still wait for the promised support of the Indian government and are dependent on your kind donations.

2023 Update

Thanks to generous donations through the years we added a third building to the existing two in 2018, where women, who need quiet and care can enjoy the peace of a hospice. Since the beginning of our work 31 beloved women have passed. Many more have been reunited with family members done by the successful search, work and care of Manoharan and our social workers. These are the abandoned homeless old women we rescue from the streets and take care of in our Old Age Home until they die.

Thanks to our generous donors, a new well was drilled that provides enough water for daily supply for our widows in the Old Age Home. The pure love and happiness which is lived here and is experienced by many visitors is indescribable and heart opening for everybody.

The amount of the young widows we are caring for together with the Aruna Partnership has increased due to the COVID-19 crisis. We are now caring for 198 poor, young widows and their children, who live in the town of Tiruvannamalai, but mostly in the surrounding villages. Without our protection and care they would be abused victims of a patriarchal system and the economic crisis, which makes the poorest suffer even more than before COVID-19. We help with medical care, housing, and above all with the education of their children.  We pay for  college or further education for young widows who are motivated and have the capacity to learn.

Some widows are trained by Premalaya Handicrafts Trust (a partner organization), to help them become financially self-supporting to enable them to take care of their children themselves. They also find jobs for young widows elsewhere, which includes the survey and control of their situation and their bosses, so that they are not abused.

Future Plans

We dream of building a classroom in our Old Age Home Garden, where the village children of our widows and other families can get computer and English language lessons in the late afternoons after school. This would considerably improve their ability to find a job after school. Government schools in India do not yet provide these lessons and private schools in the town of Tiruvannamalai are too expensive and too far away. The classroom would also help achieve another goal, to abolish the gap between old shunned widows and young people. They would be able to interact with each other in the garden of our Home to the benefit of all.

A rough construction estimate is $18,000 for the building, the furniture and computers. We would be very happy, if you could help our dream come true.

Most of the project work is done through the love and support of donations and volunteers in the USA, Germany and India. Partners work hard on changing the old mind-set of poor people in the country-side about widows and single women (which is the majority in Tamil Nadu).

So there is still a way to go!

Thank you for your assistance to our sisters and mothers in India and their children.

With love and gratitude to all of you!

Namasté Anna and Paulette

Anna with widows who reside at the Om Shanthi Old Age Home.

For more information, please visit www.widowsofindia.de.

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