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Bala Mandir Kamaraj Trust

 
 
 
Our Story
Starting with 2 children in 1949, today Bala Mandir houses over 200 orphan and destitute children, from a newborn child to 18 years. Over the many years of its existence, Bala Mandir has sheltered many thousands of such children, providing them with holistic and all-round development and equipping them to take on the world. Over the years, Bala Mandir’s activities have expanded to include children with special needs. The history of Bala Mandir has unfolded itself in response to children’s needs.
Early Years (1949 – 1974)
Bala Mandir began in March 1949, when 2 abandoned new-born babies were brought to the Late Sri K. Kamaraj at the model hut in the Congress grounds. Inspired by the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, and moved by the plight of the orphaned, destitute and abandoned children in post-independence India, Sri Kamaraj and Smt. S. Manjubhashini established Bala Mandir on 10th March 1949, to provide care, development, love and protection to children, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, or gender and with a firm conviction that India must take care of its own problems.

Established as a foundling home, Bala Mandir continues its policy of admitting children below 6 years old today. In 1949, the Foundling Home was established followed by Children’s Home and Reception Home in the subsequent years. As the children grew older, the need for their education spurred Bala Mandir to establish the Nursery School in 1951, the Primary School in 1956 and the Satyamurthi High School in 1961. This provided a continuum of the education processes for children. Since it was also discovered that there were adolescents who were less inclined towards academics, a series of vocational training units were introduced. Thus, the Carpentry Unit was set up in 1962, for the manufacture of Educational play materials focused on needs of children below 6 years, followed by Laundry and Screen Printing thus providing employable skills for adolescents.

In the 60’s various means of rehabilitating children back into society evolved. 1960 saw the beginning of Bala Mandir undertaking and supporting the marriage of orphan girls. In 1965, the institution began giving children in adoption, initially inter-country as well but later and to-date only intra-country. These activities supported the rehabilitation of many children into society.
Expanding Years (1975 – 1999)
In 1975 Bala Mandir changed its name to Bala Mandir Kamaraj Trust.

The years between Bala Mandir’s 25th and 50th anniversaries saw a number of changes occurring, as Bala Mandir expanded upon the already existing foundation of services to take the institution to the next level – a physical and qualitative expansion of activities for children.

In 1977, the Bala Mandir German Hall, with a seating capacity of 750 people, was built funded from the donations from the people of Germany. The Hall has been generating income from rental for programmes, meetings, functions etc. and was used by Bala Mandir for all its cultural events.

In 1983, Bala Mandir Research Foundation was established for further research on parenting, child care and development, and continues to operate as a partner organization to Bala Mandir.

In response to the expressed needs of the community 1985 saw the beginning of the Bala Mandir English Medium School later renamed as Vidyalaya Primary & Nursery School.

The growing incidence of female foeticide in Nagercoil encouraged Bala Mandir to start a Transit home for babies in 1987 which in 1990 become a full-fledged home for orphan and destitute girls.

To aid the pursuit of higher education of children, in 1987-88, the Satyamurthi High School was upgraded to Higher Secondary, and was able to expand its coverage of complete school education for the children. In 1989-90 the High School was upgraded with an English medium section responding to the growing aspirations of the community.

1988 onwards, the Bala Mandir Vinayaka Clinics were established to provide holistic care of all children who accessed Bala Mandir child care and development services for dental, physiotherapy, homeopathy and eye care. A Comprehensive School Health Programme was introduced from 1998 onwards to ensure the physical well-being of the children of the institution and schools.

In 1993, the existing Nursery School was merged with the Primary School, and a Crèche / Day Care Centre was set up to cater to children of nearby slum areas. This was in response to the observation that a number of children, especially girls, began dropping out of school to care for their younger siblings. This facility was for the care of young children while their elder girl siblings could continue their education.

1999 marked the Golden Jubilee of Bala Mandir, and the Govt. of Tamil Nadu, recognizing the contribution of Bala Mandir to 5 decades of child care, gave permission for Bala Mandir to start the B.M.-P-H.M. Industrial Training Centre (ITC). Initially starting with training in carpentry, the ITC subsequently started electrical and fitter trade courses under the National Council of Vocational Training (NCVT) programme of government of India – specifically for deprived urban and rural children and those from institutional care.
Consolidating Years (2000 – 2015)
The years between 2000 and 2015 saw some more changes occurring. The mantle of leadership changed; new parameters of administrative functioning were introduced; growing support from donors and well-wishers helped infrastructure and launching of smaller projects; a more professional approach to child care emerged and an open door policy to include partnership projects was envisaged. Bala Mandir continued to consolidate the existing services and rework the approach to some others. In keeping with the changed times, certain programmes were discontinued and / or merged with other programmes. This helped the institution build focus and look to the future with qualitative inputs such as Special Education, Spoken English, Home sponsorship, Higher Educational support, behaviour counselling, Health Education, Value Education, Life skills training, and a well-defined Early Childhood Care and Development programme.

Bala Mandir embarked upon a journey of rediscovery to articulate the values that were in practice since the conception of the organization. At the core remains the child centricity and integrity that have always characterized Bala Mandir and its operations. A formal statement of code of conduct, and its dissemination among staff and volunteer members, helped ensure that the core values remain intact while the organisation adapts to the changes in its environment and grows.

The formation of verticals and sub-committees helped strengthen the organization and bring focus to each of Bala Mandir’s various activities.
This period also saw the stoppage of the higher secondary classes to help focus on quality improvement in the school and the closure of the carpentry production unit to focus more on vocational skills training. On the other hand new short term courses for carpentry for interiors and AC mechanic were started.
The Renewal Phase (2015 to date)

The severe flooding of Bala Mandir in 2015 was a trigger point for a major revamp of the infrastructure. An appeal was made for donation to support the Bala Mandir rebuild project and spontaneously various donors came forward to support. Over the next few years every part of Bala Mandir infrastructure was upgraded and rebuilt if needed. 

Computerisation of the various processes and strengthening of the HR and other management processes were the other highlights. During this phase, the project to convert the German Hall into an office complex was also completed. This enables Bala Mandir to earn a steady rental income and create a financial stability to approach the future with confidence and build a base to expand its charitable activities. 

In 2018, with the merger of the activities of Bala Mandir Research Foundation, the outreach activities related to parenting and early childhood care have got added to Bala Mandir range of activities. In the same year, the activities of Madhuram Narayanan Centre also got added to Bala Mandir. With this the scope of Bala Mandir work now extends to supporting children with intellectual difficulties. In both cases, these were under independent organisations and the integration with Bala Mandir is intended to bring synergies which will help both organisations benefit and improve their social impact.  

In 2019, due to the changing environment and with a view to focus on the activities related to children, the vocational training activities were stopped and a decision was made to convert the building into primary school.  

In 2020, Bala Mandir started an ambitious Re-engineering project for the schools which aims at transforming and simplifying the school processes.

In July 2021, with the Covid pandemic looming large, Bala Mandir decided to help the orphaned children in need. Instead of waiting for the children to be referred to Bala Mandir home, the social workers started visiting the families who had lost someone due to covid to find out what kind of support these families needed. This led to the "Kinship Care" programme which has since grown in size and scope to become the 5th activity of Bala Mandir. The children who lost one or both parents are part of the "virtual home" of Bala Mandir and the social worker visit them and play a key role to give them access to the various online support processes aimed at holistic development of the children. The programme has also been extended to non Covid deaths.

Bala Mandir now has the following five verticals

  • Children’s Home – Target to be the model /reference home
  • Education – Pre-Primary to High School – Target to be the best in academic excellence for the needy section of the society
  • MNC Unit – Target to be the model early intervention centre for children with intellectual disabilities, development delays and skill development program for such children when they grow up
  • Bala Mandir Research Foundation – Maximise the social impact outside Bala Mandir by sharing the best practices in the area of early childhood development and parenting practices 
  • Kinship Care – Supports the children overcome the disadvantage faced by them when they suddenly lose one or both parents and continue to stay at their homes. 

While embracing the future and necessary modern changes, Bala Mandir remains true to its history and the values and ethics established by its founders. Its history forms the foundation upon which it has been built up and continues to grow itself.