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who we are

who we are

Matthew Norton, set up the charity SKCV Children’s Trust in 1984 with 9 boys from the streets in Bombay, but soon moved to an old colonial house in Pune where Bhakti, a local girl, acted as secretary and general factotum.

local donorsMore children came and 4 years later, after a chance meeting with the Mayor of Vijayawada, Andra Pradesh they all moved there to a run down orphanage, Seva Niketanam, 40 miles inland, 250 miles north of Madras on the River Krisna. Vijayawada is a large rail junction with thousands of children on the streets.

Now known as Manihara (or Pitaji (father) to the children), Manihara married  Bhakti in 1988, they began to build a home for forty boys in the peaceful surroundings of the suburbs. They soon gained the respect of the local people and in particular Rotarians who supported them in many ways; goods-in-kind, medical help and money.

A small Night Shelter in town was rented to take boys who needed security at night but were not yet ready to leave the streets, though showing some willingness to resume normal life again. This was run by a young man, Nityananda, who attempted to make some semblance of a home for them out of unpromising premises with great success.

1992 saw the planning of a village on 7 acres of scrubland on the river’s edge rented from the local mosque. This village built by boys and run by them had long been a dream of Manihara’s. And so it was that Prema Vihar Village grew. The first building was a long house of 9 rooms for a 100 boys and Manihara’s family. It was built of breeze blocks with verandas and banana leaf roofs. A separate cookhouse with eating area was also built. They set about making this work. Many of the boys went daily to a group of workshops built by SKCV on the main road into town at Bhavanipuram. These housed bike repairs, tailoring, plastic seat weaving, sign writing, pottery, bottle top manufacture and Art work run by 15 year old Chandra, still in post 20 years later. Each boy spent 2 hours a day in the little ‘workshop school’ taught by 15 year old Kesava, who is now head master of the main ‘school’ at Prema Vihar. Other children who had more education went to the local school.

floodIn October 1998 the river barrage had to be opened against horrendous flooding and a torrent swept down the river taking the village with it. Manihara was at home in England and a special meeting of Trustees was called where it was decided to rebuild with substantial bungalows on deep concrete foundations. These bungalows were to house 25 boys each. SKCV (UK) set about raising the funds to build bungalows at a modest cost of £3K each to be donated by businesses. A large dining room and cook house was funded at £6K and a further £6K for a main house for Manihara and Bhakti with reception area for visitors, offices and a room for computers. Trees were planted and away from the river the land was prepared for vegetables.

And so this was all built with room for 150 boys. Since then it has withstood the onslaught of several floods up to the window level, leaving only a mess to be cleared up, which is soon done by all those boys.

boys villageThe Consortium for Street Children was launched in UK 1994 and SKCV signed up to it. CRY, a large Government funding agency in India, pledged £10,000 a year. Rotary raised funds both in the UK and in India and as SKCV became known and respected so the funds came in.

In 1994 a large Night Shelter, Santosh Bhavan, was built near the rail station jointly funded by the Corporation, the Canadian Embassy and the ODA. This had enough dormitory space for 150 boys, eating area, a school room and space on the ground floor for the offices and a computer unit which generated funds through work taken in.

In 2000 30 girls were housed in Bala Prema, a rather cramped house, but moved to a much larger house after a couple of years. Girls pose a particular problem on the streets as they are prey to pimps and last only 20 minutes before being picked up so many very poor families beg SKCV to take the children. This final house was a safe haven for them where they could learn their lessons and relax in the cool garden.

girls villageIn 2000 it was agreed that a girls’ village, Amodini, to match the boys’ needed to be established. Fundraising started with Selfridges raising £87K in 2002 followed by an anonymous donation of £75K and £100K from St James’ Place Foundation. Problems finding the right land and the protracted actual build meant that it took until 2007 before the girls could move into a large, purpose built hostel and complimentary school.

Also this time at the Non-Formal School Building, Vidiyahar, was built at Prema Vihar for the many children who were not at the right level of education for their age and so were floundering at the local schools. Eventually all boys started there and joined state school when they were ready, later going on to college or university.

Life at SKCV continued happily with older boys taking over the management when Manihara began to suffer severe pain caused by osteoporosis and in June 2009 he suddenly collapsed and died. His wife Bhakti valiantly carried on the good work with the help of staff and existing trustees. A new board of trustees was appointed to take the strain away from Bhakti with inevitable changes to suit a new regime, but with the same love and dedication for the children in their care. All aspects of rehabilitation of street children are taken care of in SKCV’s various units and the work goes on.