[ Tongam Rina ]
Sishu Bhavan is a short stay home for children run by the Missionaries of Charity in Naharlagun. Right now, there are 17 children between seven months to seven years.
Six of them are baby girls.
Child Welfare Committee (CWC, Itanagar) chairperson Kani Nada Maling, who recommends admission of children to the short stay home, says that children are sent to the home for duration of three months. Most times, the committee has to extend the stay because the children have no place else to go.
The children are from all over Arunachal and many are Puroik.
Some are orphans with no one to take care of them, while some are there because their parents cannot look after them because of poverty.
Some children stay there as their parents are undergoing treatment for tuberculosis. The Missionaries of Charity also run a TB DOTS centre just below the short stay home.
Kani says that she has made it mandatory for relatives to visit the children once in a month.
Most of them do visit, the sister says.
There are two rooms, one for the children above three years and one for those younger.
A seven-month-old prefers the company of older companions, so he is allowed in there.
An asthmatic child, he was fast asleep in one of the beds. As we tiptoed near the door, he wakes up demanding the attention of the caretaker who picks him up gently. He was soon coaxed to sleep.
In the other room, where the smaller children were sleeping, our whispers were enough to wake up a two-year-old child. She was annoyed at the intrusion and made a big fuss about it. I was nervous around a cranky two-year-old light sleeper even as the sisters and the caretakers cheered her up.
“The relatives will take most of the children back as has been the case before”, says Kani.
One wonders though.
The sister says that many people from the Capital region have come forward to support the children.
“Some parents celebrate the birthdays of their children with the children of the home”, she says.
We do not seek donations but people do donate food items and toiletries, she says, adding that even the doctors do not charge for treatments. The short stay home has a doctor on standby.
For those who wish to donate, Kani suggests degradable disposable nappies, rice and vegetables, infant formula food, as well as toiletries.
For the children, the short stay home is the only home they know, so don’t barge in and don’t treat it like a touristy place. Leave it to the sisters and the caretakers to guide you.
Make sure you don’t go during their naptime, which is between 1 to 3 PM.
If you don’t want to take off your footwear, the home, which is well maintained and extremely clean is a no go area.
If tears come easy, avoid. Children get scared by some adult behaviour, and crying is one of them.
Photography is not allowed inside the home so avoid selfies even if you are tempted. Sisters are strict about it as is the CWC.