Lessening the sorrows
"Aai" is a Marathi word for "mother". The Aai Foundation, launched by Santosh Narayan Garje is just that - it is a mother to 43 destitute children.
Santosh was recently awarded a fellowship by a Pune-based educational institute in recognition of his contribution to the society.
Santosh, a resident of Beed district in Maharashtra and the son of a farm labourer, conceived the plan to start an orphanage when he was 19 years old and after suffering a personal tragedy. His elder sister died during delivery leaving her child behind. Santosh's father was heart-broken by his daughter's death and he left home never to return.
Santosh felt a vacuum in his life. But looking at his sister's child, he resolved that he would take care of orphaned children. That is how the Aai Foundation took roots in 2004.
He initially got a rented residence for the children. Once he ran out of provisions and, so, he went door-to-door seeking assistance. But some people thought that he was a fraud. That, however, did not deter him and he continued his work.
The Foundation has 43 children under its care at present and they are in the age group of six to seventeen. The children are provided with food, clothes, shelter, health, education and protection. "We try our best to help children, especially orphans," the Foundation says about its objectives in http://aai-foundation.blogspot.in. "These relations are more important than blood and family relations," it goes on to add while claiming that the Foundation endeavours to lessen the sorrows of the children and make them happier than before.