With an inborn spirit of empathy for those who suffer pain and neglect, Annie has a history of entering in to the lives of the poor, exploited and tortured. As a small child Ms Annie was immensely inspired by her aunt Sr. M. Michael MMS who in the 1960s was an angel to the downtrodden in Erattupetta. Sister would often feed the poor who were eye sore to most of the society. For her and later on her niece, embracing the hurt of others and getting them in to the folds of celebration called life was a way to fill meaning and fulfilment..
As a young girl she had often shared her lunch with her poor classmates. As a child the poorer women labourers in her house pour their hearts out to Annie’s mother. At that point Annie saw her mother’s helplessness in helping them other than a comforting listening ear or some food or money. This helplessness inspired Annie to become more proactive and she brought home her poorer friends at home for the summer holidays so they could get descent meals during school vacation. As an adult, she went on continuing her acts of kindness; later in her life she had sheltered poor and homeless women and children in her home. With the desire to help a mentally disturbed adolescent boy with traumatic experiences she attended a counselling course. She accepted the offer of a post as secretary to “Thanal” an organization of YWCA Kottayam for distressed women. 8 years experience in Thanal gave her deep insight in to the enormous problem of women and children especially the victims of alcoholism.
When Thanal could no more cope up with the increasing number of clients she was forced to say ‘No’ to many who came for shelter. 2 such cases committed suicide in their desperate situation and one young mother was brutally killed by her alcoholic husband. This painful experience urged Annie to give up the security in Thanal by resigning and give birth to Santhwanam, a beacon of hope for distressed women and children.
When she was stepping down from from Thanal a 3 year old girl Muthu (name changed)was brought by the police, who was abandoned in train by her family for being the harbinger of doom. They believe that her birth brought huge losses to the family and thus they discarded her on a train. Annie brought the child home; she tried to unite the child with her family. But the deeply ingrained superstitions did not allow the child her family. – The family refused. That’s when Annie decided to adopt the child as her own. The CJM granted the child’s custody to Annie and Muthu was brought up as her own. However, law proved heartless, despite love and safety, Annie and her husband proved ineligible for adopting Muthu as their own. The same court then ordered them to release the child to an orphanage. Annie did not relent. She got a stay order from the High Court.
Annie already had a dream for women, Muthu fostered in her the desire to reach out and provide comfort to young orphaned girl children as well.
Santhwanam was born in 2007 on rented premises initially housing 7 children. Soon after its registration Police and other authorities found santhwanam a safe spot for housing the children they found in unsafe circumstances. Within 2 years the number swelled to thirty five. What started out as a small project for around ten children got a life of its own and grew....
But growth needed nourishment. The expenses for this establishment were beyond what Annie and her family could arrange for. But providence has other plans. At each critical juncture in Santhwanam’s life, support in form of money, material etc would materialize without any effort whatsoever.
Santhwanam was forced to look for more permanent shelters in 2010 with the new Government order that mandated on owned building for such institutions. Destiny intervened yet again within the next 2 years santhwanam was able to identify a plot with a house and settle payments for same. (photo)
Now even law enforcement authorities find santhwanam as a place of safe haven for such downtrodden in society. Members of community and those active in politics vouch for the solace and services provided by this little heaven on earth.
In the last 9 years, santhwanam has grown from a place of hope and solace for the downtrodden to a place that offers hope and courage to dream of a better life for the people who are in the underbelly of society- - discarded and humiliated.
Today there are close to 100 people living at santhwanam. 49 children are going to school. They are accessing education each one according to her own calibre. There are currently three studying for graduate nursing; one of them is pursuing her PG in social work. (link)
Santhwanam has proven to be a home in the real sense of the word as the name is meant to be. Like any other good parent, Annie leaves no stone unturned to provide the best for her children. The children there get personality development classes, workshops on life skill, and self defence training through karate, yoga etc... Three of her adult children also have driving licenses of their own!!
Like any mother she provides the best medical treatment possible as well. Her children have been provided heart surgeries, micro vascular surgery and even a hip bone transplant. All these is purely through God’s grace who provide for in time...(Links add)
Today santhwanam is proud to have reunited numerous children to their fathers, wives to their husbands – created complete homes by strengthening the women by their mere presence.
Santhwanam has been able to provide solace to numerous women- young and old to gain a foothold in life. These women with ages varying from sixteen to over eighty years knocked on the doors of Santhwanam. Bad marriage, alcoholic husbands, wives of men with psychological disorders, love failure, Neglect and torture by children, those forced on the edge of suicide by life circumstances.
Stories of these women are heart wrenching, but the only sad part being there's very listeners and even fewer people to lend a helping hand. Santhwanam reached out to these helpless and distraught women, never refusing a single person.
Majority of these women on the brink of a nervous breakdown have been given access to psychological treatment and counselling. Nothing is a bigger support than being helped to reach self reliance and the shortest way to that is financial independence. Santhwanam has consistently striven to provide these women opportunities to attain self reliance through education, job oriented trainings and placements in vocational institutes.
Women requiring resolution of their domestic issues are supported with counselling, mediation, police intervention and free legal aid.
Majority of the cases involve alcoholism as a huge barrier to domestic harmony, Santhwanam believes that ensuring rehabilitation of women also involves rehabilitation of families. It takes a proactive stand in arranging for husbands to enrol for de addiction programmes through various centres and retreat programmes. Santhwanam has brought together thousands of families in this manner.
The non-judgemental and non biased philosophy of Santhwanam has attracted many women in dire straits to seek comfort there including battered wives, unwed mothers, young girls in distress, aged and discarded mothers etc.
Today Santhwanam is like maternal home for many of these women where they have a family that will enquire after their well-being and safety- the husbands can no longer take their wives to be weak and unwanted. They are forced to acknowledge their dignity and worth. Women are provided free legal aid and emotional strength to re-establish their home. For many women with no means or support, Santhwanam is just that. It provides emotional and material courage to them to pick up the threads of their torn life and weave it into a beautiful tapestry. Women are supported for higher education and career prospects. Santhwanam provides many young women and girls to complete their education and become self reliant in life.
Santhwanam has supported two women to gain meaningful employment abroad. Numerous women have found economic independence in Kerala and even across states of India. Three women amongst these have been able to buy land on their own. Santhwanam too has shared some its land with three of these women. Now we hope to see them set up their homes in these plots.
In all these years, amidst all the challenges, Santhwanam has strived to provide homely atmosphere for our children with abundant love, care and warmth. Despite the fact that Santhwanam does not receive any Government or foreign funding or other support of any kind, Santhwanam has managed to uphold its values and provide a way of life to numerous disadvantaged because of the goodwill of many good hearted Samaritans in the society.
- Orphaned and delinquent children wandering around and begging in the street and railway stations , who are brought by police and good willed people, are given shelter and a homely atmosphere of love, freedom, sharing and security.
- Their needs for growth and developments are met. Ensure higher education and value education.
- Help them to be healed of their mental wounds caused by the traumatic experiences of their past through guided play, recreation, group activities and prayer.
- Help them develop values and good habits such as love and selfless service, sharing, work, prayer, patients etc.
Give shelter and temporary home for exploited and marginalized women who come to santhwanam and brought by police and neighbours. Rehabilitate them and bring them up to the main stream of life.
- Give separate wing for the women with their infants and toddlers.
- Provide an atmosphere of love freedom, sharing and security.
- Help to solve their problems through counselling, retreat, de-addiction programme, police intervention and legal aid.
- Through counselling and awareness programmes empower them and help them to reach the main stream of life.
Santhwanam having listened to the history of the inhuman torture women endured from their alcoholic and drug addicts husbands, and their endless cries, is aware of the havoc done by alcohol and drugs to families and society and out to fight against it through various awareness programmes. As we response to God’s call “To lift up our less fortunate fellow human beings from the pit of desolation and give them a life, life in its fullness