Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A student's account of social work in an old age home..

This report was a good one from a student of first year of PGDBM at Xavier Inst of management, Bangalore, Merin Jose, doing her winter project of 3 weeks, in an old age home Hannah Bhavan run by sisters ( from Orthodox church) in Ayemenem, kottayam. Very impressive work....


This winter I had the fortune of working in an old age home. My first experience in an old age home… the only picture of such homes so far has been what has been painted by books and movies. However, the experience by itself was very different. To begin with, this is not an old age home for old couples. It is an abode for lonely women who due to various circumstances landed in this nest- to protect and to be protected. In fact, what's very unique about the place is that some of the inmates, themselves, are responsible for various duties such as cooking, cleaning, caretaking of the other inmates and so on. Moreover, yet another distinctive feature is that save a handful of inmates who pay for their stay, a majority of the inmates have been abandoned by their kith and kin.

The Old Age Home is set in a beautiful village in Kerala called Ayemenem… a village that was introduced to the world by Booker Prize Winner, Arundhati Roy, who dedicated her prize winning novel, God of Small Things, to this beautiful country side.

Hannah Bhavan is a Christian Charitable institution founded by the sisters of the Bethany Convent, which belongs to the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Its mission is to serve as a haven for the aged and destitute women of the society. This home was donated by the late Mrs.Annamma Cherian in 1986. The Convent commissioned three nuns, namely, Sr.Yulithi (superior in charge), Sr.Martha and Sr.Feba, who till date are responsible for the place and work tirelessly to make the home a better place to live in. Their efforts have helped raise this home, which was initially a small building with hardly 3-4 rooms; into what it is today, an abode that can house nearly 40 people. The Hannah Bhavan started functioning in 1992.

Presently, it consists of 65 cents of land and about 10 rooms. Each room consists of 2-3 inmates and is equipped with a bathroom, wardrobes and a table.


In the initial days of my visit, I concentrated my efforts in making myself as well as the people of the Home mutually comfortable. Once, this process was completed I began to observe their daily activities, management structure and their fund flow.

  • Daily Activities

The huge bell in the chapel chimes at 6:30-7 in the morning and that's when life at Hannah Bhavan begins. The three nuns associated with the home begin yet another day's journey that's filled with a lot of challenges. They take turns to milk the cows and find pleasure in spending time with nature in the form of collecting eggs( from the numerous hens that they own) and gathering the produce for the day from an area that has been cultivated by them. In fact, the land almost always yields as much as it takes to fulfill the daily needs of the Home. Some of the inmates who work in the kitchen are then woken up and together they get the show on the road so that they can serve breakfast to the other inmates on time. These inmates who assist the nuns are mentally challenged and are on medication. However, they are physically fit and so have been trained over the years to do everything that is within their capabilities. Breakfast is served around 9 A.m. Due to the ailing condition of most of the inmates; breakfast is served in the rooms. After breakfast, a few of the assisting inmates prepare the other inmates for bath, a few attend the laundry and the remaining prepares lunch. There is a recreation room equipped with a television and in order to prevent the inmates from sleeping during the day( and staying awake in the night) they are allowed to watch T.V.At around 12 a small prayer is held in the chapel and all the inmates are welcome to attend it. After lunch, while most of the inmates go in for a siesta, the nuns have no rest. They have to milk the cows, settle the accounts for the day and deal with several other issues that require their attention. However, they go about all their tasks with absolute passion and commitment. It is very heartening to see them tackle both, the trivial complaints of the inmates and well as serious issues such as shortage o funds, with ease.

  • Management Structure

They do not have a rigid organizational structure as such. The Hannah Bhavan officially belongs to the Bethany Convent but they do not interfere with the workings of the Home, the management of which is the sole responsibility of the three nuns.

  • Fund Flow

This institution carries out its activities solely based on the occasional donations that they get from various sources. Their daily need for vegetables is mostly met from their cultivated land. They sell some of the milk to nearby houses and earn a small amount in this way. Moreover, they have struck a deal with a utility shop whereby they order in bulk from the shop and in return the shop supplies them with their needs even in months when the nuns do not have funds to pay them. Thus, it's a win- win situation for the shop owner has to himself a loyal and good customer and the nuns have a permanent source of supplies to ensure that even in those unfortunate months when they run out of funds they can still serve the inmates. In addition, a large amount of money is spent on purchasing medicines for the inmates.


  1. Met up with potential donors
  2. Enhanced Public awareness by distributing brochures to all potential sources of fund and support
  3. Proposed ideas that could help generate a permanent source of income for the home- such as selling greeting cards and easy to make food items
  4. Studied the organization structure and recommended changes
  5. Motivated an inmate to write an article which is soon to be published in the Malayala Manorama
  6. Planned a recreational activity which is to be conducted soon
  7. Got the consent from a television channel to feature a document about the Home
  8. Approached the social work department of a reputed college and got them to associate with the home and provide all the help needed.
  9. Conducted a presentation in Rotary Club to increase awareness and raise funds.

1 comment:

  1. Brought back a lot of memories Sir....Thank you for publishing this in your blog :)


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