Stand first: Long sighted or short sighted, it’s obvious that Madhu Muthuletchumi has the foresight to see the bigger picture in life, dedicating hers to caring for others
Which wife and mother would take on the responsibility of caring for another 33 children with her own family obligations to see to? Moreover, these children have no relation to her, come from broken families, difficult backgrounds, most from single-parent families and will either return to their families or find their way in life, once they turn 18 and complete their basic primary and secondary education. Well, Madhu Muthuletchumi is one such woman who has.
Only in her 30s with one daughter, the beautiful, certified private secretary graduate from RIMA College is also a Chennai-trained Indian classical dancer. She used to contribute towards community giving by performing in the classical arts at charity events. “From the time I was 16, I have been a devoted follower of Saint Ramalingam or Vallalar as he is fondly known as. He is a divine being and the embodiment of great compassion and his teachings encourage worship and salvation through compassionate service, and non-killing and non-consumption of flesh, animal meat or as the saint calls it ‘corpses’ amongst other principles,” informs Madhu. Taking community service as her focus and vocation in life, Madhu shares of the hard time she had convincing her parents of her calling. “It’s funny how things work out. I had no intention of getting married but coming from a Hindu background, my parents were devastated when I told them I had no wish to settle down and go through life like most regular people,” Madhu reveals. Having had to go through all the antics and emotions from family members, Madhu kept vigilant in her cause until fate somehow intervened with a plan of its own. “My husband saw me perform at one of the charity events and somehow found out about my chosen path. Although he approached me and I refused, he decided to speak directly to my parents for my hand in marriage. He said that he had been looking for a wife who had the same passion and compassion in helping those in need as he and his mother were already running a home. After much discussion and contemplation, I relented and we were married a couple of months later,” shares Madhu.
Together with her husband Gopinath Muthuletchumi and Michael Lim, they set up Pusat Jagaan Kanak-kanak Sayang back in 2007. “This centre was mainly established to house children who were abandoned by their parents and those from single-parent families who are poor and needy. Our home is actually an off- shoot of Pusat Jagaan Orang-orang Kurang Upaya dan Terbiar Lovely, which was initiated by my husband. He runs that home together with his mother whilst I see to the running of this home,” Madhu informs. She continues to inform of the main objective of the home – to provide shelter for children of single parents who are not able to care for them, along with those from difficult backgrounds whom she would consider. “What I want to do is to teach all these children good moral values, to learn to be grateful to God for what they have. I believe these are basic principles every child should be taught. If children start off on the right foot with proper foundation and guidance, they will grow to become good citizens. If they fall into the wrong hands or do not have good, strong foundation from the time they are young, they may be easily influenced when they grow up, and indulge in untoward activities, which can lead to more serious crimes,” says Madhu, the disciplinarian who sees to the smooth running of the home as well as the welfare of the children.
Much like a Mother Superior in a convent, she gives a tour of the simple yet functional home setting with many double-decker beds. There is a room each for girls and physically-challenged girls, and the hall is where the boys are placed. There’s the indoor kitchen that’s been transformed into a store, along with an outdoor kitchen, which Madhu says was set up, renovation and all, by a kind lady donor. There’s a large semi-covered area adjacent to the outdoor kitchen, and this is where the children have their meals, do their homework and read or plat at when they’re not studying.
“We have 33 children including three who are physically-challenged, aged between six and 18. They’re all school-going. Once they finish their secondary education, they either go back to their families or go out to work and fend for themselves. While they are here, I provide them with a clean and healthy living environment, with daily home-cooked vegetarian meals. I arrange for transport to send and pick the children to and from school and make sure they study and do their homework. I also arrange for volunteers to give them tuition and at the moment am looking for BM and English teachers. During the weekends, I arrange for a yoga instructor to teach all the children yoga and sometimes, we have volunteers who come by to do some craftwork with the kids. At times, we receive corporate donations like trips and outings,” Madhu shares.
What’s most challenging for Madhu is raising funds to pay for operating costs and the daily running of the home. “We receive a lot of donations in kind, from bags to stationery, school shoes and uniforms, and at times rice and biscuits. But what we need most is funds to help maintain the home and pay for rent, the utility bills and repairs,” declares Madhu. No doubt a good heart and kind spirit is needed to run a home, but funds is required to upkeep the home and see to the needs of the less fortunate. I believe many are called to serve and there are many ways to give – time, money, skill or expertise, even care kindness or a listening ear. So let’s search our hearts and see how and where we can give of ourselves to others who are in need.