Growth, Achievements, and Celebrations
Growing into Our Space
Chaya Pamula, SOFKIN Founder and current Director, was thrilled to finally be able to visit the SOFKIN children in early September - the first visit in over 1 ½ years because of the COVID pandemic. Typically, she’d visit every three months, so it this was an exciting time with so many plans and activities.
SOFKIN opened the second-floor dormitories of the girls’ and boys’ buildings, which had vacant until now. The children had only been occupying the first floor of these buildings. Ten new admissions have taken place this year, bringing to 70 the number of children and young people that we serve. Because of the new admissions, as well as the fact that the children are getting older – the SOFKIN population now includes several teenagers, and the children needed more space. (The SOFKIN homes were planned with expansion in mind, and we are grateful to be able to take advantage of this now.)
Special guests, Mr. Acharya Garu of the Lead India Foundation and CI Mr. Narender Goud from the Police Department of Keesara, were invited to the inauguration ceremony and it was attended by members of the board of directors: Prasad Tenjerla and Lakshman Kandarpa. Both the guests and the children had fun spending time together; the children especially liked learning more about jobs in the police department.
Growing into New Roles
There were three staff changes at SOFKIN during September. Jhunu Auditto left for personal reasons and will be greatly missed. Rashmi Gudapuri was hired as the new Project Coordinator. Two new positions were also created, both filled by young women who grew up in SOFKIN. Meena, who has completed her Bachelor of Social Work degree and is working on her Master’s degree, is the new Child Welfare Coordinator. Niharika, who has completed her BA degree, is the new Operations Coordinator. SOFKIN has always been dedicated to creating and providing career paths and job opportunities for the children. And it is heartening to have two wonderful young women who grew up in SOFKIN stay on and guide the younger and new children that come to these caring homes.
Instilling Appreciation to Help the Environment
All the children enjoyed an outing to Forest College and Research Institute in Hyderabad at the beginning of September. Forest College is the first college in the new state of Telangana with a vision to protect our environment and forest wealth for generations to come. In addition to a tour of the campus and museum, the children heard inspirational talks about the environment and why we need to protect nature. They also met Mrs. Priyanka Varghese, CM KCR OSD, IFS, Dean of Forrestal College of Research Institute and OSD CMO Telangana.
Mrs. Priyanka visited SOFKIN the next day to celebrate her birthday with the SOFKIN family.She shared her life story, including the challenges that she overcame with courage, determination, and grace to reach her goals. She also donated and helped plant two trees, Neem and Pride of India, in the SOFKIN courtyard.
Celebrations - Creativity and Art Galore
Eleven children and staff members celebrated their birthdays during September, including Chaya, who celebrated a month early in order to celebrate with the children. Parmesh baked 3 different cakes for the occasion! Chaya surprised everyone by providing a gift to each person, courtesy of PamTen.
Parmesh continues to excel in his cooking and baking skills, something that makes all the children of SOFKIN very happy. He recently won 2nd runner up in the USSEC – IIHM Soy Culinary Competition.
All SOFKIN children attended a three-day meditation class (1 ½ hours a day for 3 days.) They received instruction in how to concentrate on their breathing and how to remove negative energy and get positive energy. As a result of the class, the children committed to doing a daily meditation, following the principles they learned.
Beginning on Sept. 10, SOFKIN celebrated Ganesh Chaturthi, one of the most important Hindu festivals, which celebrates the birth of Lord Ganesh. As in past years, the children made clay idols following a very specific process: mud is collected from a field and ground into a fine powder to remove all the impurities like stones and roots. It is then soaked in water for 24 hours, allowing the fine mud to collect at the bottom. The excess water is drained and discarded the next day and the resulting smooth clay is ready for use - the whole process designed to be environmentally friendly.
In making the Ganesh idols, the children had an opportunity to display their skills and creativity and created a wide variety of idols. The idols were offered pooja – devotional worship and prayer – for 11 days. On the final day, SOFKIN’s beloved priest, Sri. Gopalachari Garu visited SOFKIN with his family and blessed all the children.
The walls in the dining hall, study rooms and computer labs are more beautiful as a result of a painting project organized by Chaya. She and several of the young people painted colorful murals and inspirational quotes on newly painted walls.
And, much to the children’s delight, Chaya continued her tradition of cooking a meal for them during her visit. The meal of Pongal, chutney and soup was pronounced delicious by all!
Courses, Congratulations, and Gratitude
As the COVID pandemic seems to be getting under control, 8th – 10th grade students, as well as college students, are back to in-person classes. The younger children up to 7th grade, however, are still going to school online. Even though the country is beginning to open up, all COVID precautions are still in place at SOFKIN. This includes wearing a mask indoors at SOFKIN for everyone who comes and goes, like the high school and college students, as well as Chaya during her visit. All young people, age 18 and above, and staff who are eligible, have gotten at least their first dose of the vaccine.
High Scores for Audit Results
In a recent Child Welfare Committee audit to renew our license, SOFKIN received very high marks. The officials conducting the inspection noted that no other NGO had such high scores related to infrastructure, facilities provided, hygiene, accurate and transparent record keeping, and overall quality and maintenance of the homes. They also expressed satisfaction in witnessing the unique family bonding that occurs at SOFKIN. The CWC has even been referring children to SOFKIN.
We are so grateful to our many supporters and donors for making all of this possible. A heart-felt thank you to you all!