Many SOFKIN supporters have asked this question in the past. How do you remotely manage the operations of SOFKIN?
The answer to this question lies in the comprehensive system that has been established to ensure that all is always well at SOFKIN. It’s a system that Chaya has set up and it is all just a part of her daily life.
A key part of this system is the call that Chaya makes to SOFKIN twice a day. These calls are part of the SOFKIN family routine, much as everyone has a daily routine with their children and families.
In her morning call – when it is evening in India - Chaya reviews with the housemothers how the day has gone. For example, she goes over routine operational items, such as shopping for the day or payment of regular bills; discusses the results of scheduled activities, such as parent-teacher conferences at school; and talks through anything unexpected that has come up, such as a child getting sick and perhaps needing to see a doctor. She also asks to speak with at least one child about how their day was.
Every evening (morning in India), Chaya checks in again to see if everyone is up and ready for school, who might be having a birthday, and what special clothes have been chosen for him or her to wear to school, etc. She again speaks directly to a few children, as well as the housemothers. Chaya makes a point to have these informal calls at random times to avoid predictability.
Supporting these daily check-ins is a Dropcam camera mounted on the ceiling in the main hall at SOFKIN. Connected to the internet, the live camera allows Chaya the ability to observe, at any time, all the activities that occur in the hall, including meal times, group meetings, study and play time, celebrations, etc. So even if she isn’t there, the children always know that “Amma” is present in their daily lives.
As described in the last blog, SOFKIN has also instituted a group leader system, whereby 6 elected group leaders oversee groups of 6 – 8 children. The group leaders prepare a weekly report for each of the children in their care, rating them in 5 categories: hygiene, school work, overall behavior, helpfulness, and timeliness. A summary of the compiled reports is emailed to Chaya each Friday, followed by a group meeting via Skype on Saturday to discuss any issues or action items. All the group leaders also have email accounts, which they use for ongoing communication with Chaya.
To further maintain open communication, every child at SOFKIN is encouraged to call Chaya whenever she or he feels the need. Email accounts have also been opened for the children in high school and college, so that they can email Chaya with any questions, concerns, or happy things they’d like to share. A side benefit of this email exchange is that Chaya always corrects the grammar in the emails, which are written in English. The English proficiency of many of the SOFKIN children has thereby been greatly improved.
The local representative, General Secretary of SOFKIN, Mr. Venkata Chalam takes care of emergencies and other opearational issues, Dr.Sridhar and Dr.Srinadh from Shreya Hospital attend to children's medical emergencies. All of this is, of course, enhanced by the visits Chaya makes to India 2 or 3 times a year. She also meets with the school principals and teachers, participates in PTO meetings when possible. Although close and meaningful relationships have been established with the help of technology, nothing can replace the smiles and hugs she gets directly from the children. “It is so gratifying to see firsthand how the children are thriving in the beautiful home we have been able to provide for them because of the selfless and phenominal work of our housemothers and caretakers, and of course strong support from many of our donors,” she said.