How Apna Ghar’s 21 ashrams across India open their doors to the homeless and the destituteShinjini Chowdhury
In 2000, Dr. B. M. Bharadwaj and Dr. Madhuri Bharadwaj founded the Maa Madhuri Brij Varis Sewa Sadan, Apna Ghar in Bajhera village, Bharatpur district of Rajasthan. Today, this home for the homeless has 21 ashrams all over India, and serves more than 4,000 people.
Chiranjee Baba was an 85-year-old destitute in Sahroi village of Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh. He spent his days as a cowherd to villagers, and that earned him his keep. When he fell sick – his illness ultimately leading to death – there was no one to take care of him, though many villagers came forth to help.
This incident left a mark on Bharadwaj’s mind, who was then a mere boy. Later, after he became a homeopathy doctor, he and his wife, Madhuri, set up Maa Madhuri Brij Varis Sewa Sadan, Apna Ghar as a home for those who have none to care for them.
A roof over one’s head
This organisation is for the homeless and the destitute, the sickly and the lost who are found wandering in public spaces.
Without care and help, their condition deteriorates day by day. Even maggots develop in their wounds. They approach a slow death, says Dr Bharadwaj.
Twenty-one ashrams in Rajasthan, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh run to provide shelter. Apna Ghar Sewa Samities of the organisation in tehsils and districts administer homeless and sickly people to the ashrams. Sewa Samities are administrative bodies. Volunteers have set up Apna Ghar helplines – helpline workers provide immediate services to homeless people found in their area. Thirty ambulances work day and night to carry them to ashrams for relief.
At ashrams, food, clothing and medical facilities are provided to inmates. A staff of doctors and caregivers work closely with each ashram. Separate wards house children, the aged, the mentally disabled, the sick, and so on.
Once a person is nursed back to health, staff members try to collect their contact information from them. If an inmate is able to correctly recall his address, the organisation sends its representatives to his home, or invites his family members to the ashram. On occasions that the inmate has lost her memory completely, she stays on at the ashram and becomes a part of the Apna Ghar family.
Ashrams in Kota and Ajmer are partially supported by the Government of Rajasthan. All other ashrams run on public support. A board at every ashram displays the needs of the space, and these are more often than not met by visitors’ donations. The organisation is presently running a crowdfunding campaign to raise costs. It aims to expand further and provide care and support to more people found on the roadsides.
“The vision of the organisation is to provide safe, secure and homely environment to every helpless, deprived and sick person, and that no one should ever perish due to lack of help,” says Dr. Bharadwaj.