A Shelter Story

By Nikita Prasad – Student Journalist from Asian College of Journalism

Muruggan* is busy painting and repairing a broken chair on the ground floor of The Banyan Open Shelter For Men with Psychosocial Disabilities (co-run with the Corporation of Chennai) at Dooming Kuppam, when his duty nurse calls him out for lunch. With his hands soiled in white paint, he gets up and greets the nurse with a bright smile.  The shelter dog Apu runs to him wagging his tail, he jumps with delight upon seeing his furry friend.

After petting him for a while he says, “I love the food that we get here. Never have I gone to bed empty stomach.”

“He is a big foodie and has always eaten whatever is served in our kitchen. The prospect of food makes him happy”, says Keerthana, a case manager at the shelter.

The man who has slightly matted, thinning grey hair and a short beard was found outside the Santhome Church six months ago, when team members from The Banyan located him and offered him a place in the Open Shelter. In the next two days, he was welcomed him into the shelter as a residential client. ‘Kind City Happy People’ is their street engagement program, through which they build rapport with homeless individuals on the streets, provide them with food and water, and attempt to get the person to come receive services from the shelter. 

Muruggan told them that he used to work in Velankadu and had a brother who lived near the crematorium there as well. However, The Banyan workers were unable to trace his address or family, even after repeated attempts. “Even though we found him wandering the streets , there was no sign of mental illness when we conducted our assessment. All he needed was a place to stay, where he was cared for’’ said Keerthana.

An OP (outpatient) client, who works as a carpentry trainer at Banyan, has been teaching Muruggan the skills required for carpentry for the past two months. He has shown great interest in learning carpentry and loves to paint, shape or repair wooden commodities. The OP client who comes to Banyan everyday for a fixed number of hours, trains all residents who show a keen interest in carpentry or are talented at it. “Some residents, come once in awhile, Muruggan works with me every day either with repair work or painting, and has picked up the skills of carpentry very fast”, said the OP client.

Whenever Muruggan is free he can be found playing with shelter dog, Apu. However, upon asking him who his best friend is at the shelter, he promptly replies “the duty nurse’’ without a blink. The nurse is closely associated with the residential clients at the shelter; she stays with them throughout the day, even through their daycare activities.

Other activities conducted at the shelter as part of creative and conventional training include paper folding, bead making, basket decorating and designing which increases the dynamic engagement and brain function of the residents.

Apart from day-care shelter residents, there are seven clients enrolled in their night shelter program in which they outside for their work during the day and come back to the shelter at night.

‘’For men who are old and destitute, a single meal puts a gleam of hope and gratitude in their eyes. We ensure a good life for them by providing them with food, clothes, work and shelter, so that they feel safe and comfortable here’’, said Keerthana.

Many residents like Muruggan, have found a new life at The Banyan despite having gone through unimaginable struggles in their past, having lost faith in life, and becoming depressed. Here, their sustainability is assured as they know they are taken care of.

After finishing his lunch, Muruggan picks up his tools to resume his carpentry work. Upon being asked where his home is, he says, “this is my home.”

*Names have been changed to maintain confidentiality 

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Nandalal Finds His Family After Three Years!

Nandalal at the Dooming Kuppam Shelter with fellow residents.

Nandalal at the Dooming Kuppam Shelter with fellow residents.

Roshni Ravi is a mental health professional who joined The Banyan in July 2013. This is the remarkable story of the personal and professional journey of Roshni and her successful search for Nandalal’s family.

Rosh-a-nee? Namaste. Humara naam Nandalal hai! 
 
“I joined The Banyan as a mental health professional in July 2013. It is almost half a year since I embarked on this journey and I’m at a loss for words to express what these few months have meant to me. Continue reading

Phenyl-making Process Taught to The Banyan’s Clients

Phenyl-making Workshop by Mr. Balaji

Phenyl-making Workshop by Mr. Balaji

Dr. P.S. Senthil Kumar, Occupational Therapist at The Banyan, facilitated a workshop by Mr. Balaji on phenyl making at the Shelter for the Homeless in Doomingkuppam, Santhome, Chennai, for the clients of the Shelter and of The Banyan’s Day Care Centre.
Phenyl-making Workshop by Mr. Balaji
Initially, Mr. Balaji demonstrated the process of making phenyl to all our clients.  Then, he asked the clients to individually demonstrate what they had learnt.   Many of the clients were able to recollect the entire process.  All the clients expressed delight that they had a learnt a new skill and thoroughly enjoyed the workshop.   Dr. Senthil plans to make this a routine activity at The Banyan and hopes to produce enough phenyl to meet the daily phenyl needs at the different projects.
Phenyl-making Workshop by Mr. Balaji

Phenyl-making Workshop

Following the workshop, Mr. Hari, our coordinator at the Shelter for the Homeless, organised lunch for all the clients.  Once lunch was done, all the clients were taken to the beach to relax before heading back. Without the coordinating efforts of Dr. Senthil, Mr. Balaji, Mr. Hari, and Ms. Punitha, the Day Care Centre’s coordinator, this event would not have been as successful as it was.
If you would like organise similar training workshops for our clients or would like to volunteer or donate in cash or kind, please follow the links below:

Click here to VOLUNTEER!

Contact Fanny for more info: +91-9884008643. volunteers@thebanyan.org

Click here to DONATE!

Contact Swapna for more info: +91-9840135913. swapna.k@thebanyan.org

 

Bringing Together our Banyan Clients

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The residents of Adaikalam enjoying meeting their sisters at Kovalam

Over the years, the Banyan has expanded from one shelter home to multi-purpose facilities all over the city. Our two main sites, Kovalam and Adaikalam serve the majority of clients. However the Banyan also has an active day care centre and supports a homeless shelter, both of which help hundreds of people. The Banyan community is certainly immense and can be seen throughout the city. Despite this vast community, in-house clients have never had a chance to visit their sister homes and experience the Banyan network that they are a part of.

This changed after our recent monumental inter-shelter excursion, when 37 enthusiastic Adaikalam residents started off early in the morning for what promised to be an action-filled day! Their first stop on the trip was Kovalam where they eagerly disembarked the vans to meet their Banyan sisters.

First they received a warm welcome from Mr. Salih and enjoyed a full tour of the beautiful home. Additionally, they were allowed to visit the vocational training section and witnessed the various workshops that Kovalam offers. The visit became more exciting when they were introduced to the many clients and staff members who explained their roles and responsibilities. Finally, the clients from both homes were free to interact with one another. They had a blast exploring the beautiful scenery and dabbling in the myriad vocational training activities.

Exploring the vocational training activities at Kovalam

Exploring the vocational training activities at Kovalam

However it was soon time to move to the next item in their itinerary. The group then left for the Dooming Kuppam shelter for lunch! After a quick ride, they experienced a grand welcome from the shelter team. The group enjoyed a traditional meal served on plantain leaves.  After finishing their lunch, clients had a chance to meet the clients of the shelter as well as the health care workers. One of the shelter staff, Ms. Mirnalini oriented the visitors with the shelter’s work, and the Banyan’s role in its assistance. 

Orientation at the Doomingkuppam shelter

Orientation at the Doomingkuppam shelter

Overall, the group loved the seaside view of the shelter and were thrilled with all the similarities that they shared with the shelter clients. For instance, many of the rack and storage containers were identical to those in Adaikalam!

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Discovering the similarities between the shelter and Adaikalam

After many happy conversations, the visiting clients had experienced a long day, but they were still excited for their last excursions stop: the Banyan Day Care Centre!!

When arriving at the centre, staff member Mrs. Punitha gave them a warm welcome and even greeted some familiar clients with an embrace. The orientation became special when each client spoke individually about themselves and their accomplishments at the DCC. The visitors continued to meet the day care clients and joined them in many activities. For instance, Adaikalam resident, Saidha Begum, immediately volunteered to sort beads when she saw day care clients doing the activity. The visitors also enjoyed looking at the products made in the DCC such as beautiful painting works.

Mrs Punitha welcoming the residents of Adaikalam to the day care centre

Mrs Punitha welcoming the residents of Adaikalam to the day care centre

The visit ended with some hot tea and snacks, and the group was finally ready to say goodbye. When they returned to Adaikalam, the clients were feeling extremely grateful for the trip and even thanked the van drivers for their work.

Discovering the vocational training activities

Discovering the vocational training activities

A short feedback session with the clients proved that the day was a success! Many clients voiced that they enjoyed interacting with their fellow Banyan clients. Adaikalam residents, Chenamma and Kalaichelvi were ecstatic about the trip for days to come and mentioned that they enjoyed visiting all the facilities in the same day. One client, Vijayarani proclaimed that she was very motivated by all the vocational training activities in the other centres and would like to visit more vocational training centres in Chennai. We are thrilled that our clients enjoyed the trip so much and we plan to organize many more in the future!

You can help The Banyan to continue motivating and enriching the lives of their clients by volunteering or donating. Please follow the links below:

Click here to VOLUNTEER!

Contact Fanny for more info: +91-9884008643. volunteers@thebanyan.org

Click here to DONATE!

Contact Swapna for more info: +91-9840135913. swapna.k@thebanyan.org

We Need Your Help for the Shelter for the Homeless

Shelter for the Homeless at Dooming Kuppam

Shelter for the Homeless at Dooming Kuppam.

Homeless persons encounter obstacles of different magnitudes every day, right from looking for a safe space to spend the night to finding affordable but nutritious food. Lack of access to nutritious food, shelter, healthcare and social support can compound to present some complex and difficult situations for homeless persons. Faced with such stressors on an everyday basis makes persons susceptible to several mental health concerns. Continue reading