IN the holiday season, as people turn their thoughts to spending time with family, friends and giving each other presents as tokens of love, for children in orphanages it means little. But an NGO that looks after the welfare of over 3,500 children in India’s institutional care homes across the country, has a Christmas gift idea for you – be their Secret Santa and make it a special time for them too.

Catalysts For Social Action (CSA), an NGO that works towards creating and ensuring a brighter future for every child under institutional care, has started a campaign #SantaBankeDekho to give everyone the opportunity to provide all the children they support with a Christmas treat of a gift, a day of fun and games and a special meal.

State-run child care institutions provide a safe space with basic facilities for abandoned, lost or orphaned children – tight budgets allowing little scope for treats. This is where you come in to make it possible. Play their Secret Santa and make CSA’s Christmas gift idea a reality for kids in care.

Children in institutional care

No child chooses to grow up bereft of parents, their natural carers. But one of India’s most heartbreaking statistics shows that about 3.7 lakh minors are spending their childhoods in institutional care – of which at least 50% are not orphans but from economically weak families who are unable to care for them.

Vaishali Gaikwad, now 20, was one such. It was only when her father fell ill with bone marrow failure in 2014 and died 18 months later, that her situation became precarious. His ₹22 lakh treatment also cost the family their flat and left Vaishali’s mother destitute and desperate with no means to look after her children. So she admitted her three daughters into an orphanage to protect them from harm.

Though the ‘hostel’, as Vaishali calls it, was her mother’s best and only option, for the girls it was their worst. “My sisters and I cried our eyes out. It was all so sudden. We did not want to be away from our mother or our home, I was heartbroken,” she says. Few children in shelter homes overcome this extreme separation anxiety unless they are rehabilitated, adopted or reunited with their families.

Here too, the figures are dismal with just 1% finding loving homes through CARA (Central Adoption Resource Authority), India’s official adoption agency. Vaishali was lucky. She is now reunited with her mother and studying B.Com with support from our CSA and trying to rebuild their lives.

Covid created more orphans

This year has been particularly harsh on children. With the pandemic pushing millions more families into poverty, thousands abandoned their children as they lost the means to take care of them.

Many too, lost one or both parents to Covid and most of these children have ended up in one of India’s 9,500+ child care institutions – lost, frightened and deeply traumatised. The pandemic also caused a backlog in adoptions and a fall in foster carers – swelling the number of children per home and putting pressure on an already stretched budget.

#SantaBankeDekho: Christmas gift idea

CSA, which works for the welfare of 3,560 such kids, wants to help end their year on a more cheerful, positive note by giving them a treat to remember. But with a major crunch in funds and an increase in the number of children in homes, buying gifts for each child and giving them special treats like biryani and plum cake is a luxury that they cannot afford.

So they came up with a Christmas gift idea to give you the opportunity to be the bearer of gifts and treats. Their online crowdfunding campaign #SantaBankeDekho is raising funds to help children in institutional care forget their sorrows for a day and have a fun, carefree time – especially after such a difficult year.

In the holiday season, can you find it in your heart to be their Santa and donate towards a special gift and meal for each of them?

For children in orphanages, Christmas is just another day in their lives – but it is in our power to make it an occasion they will remember with a smile on their faces. To support Catalysts For Social Action, donate here. Let’s do it!


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