Mentally ill roadside destitutes Mental Rehabilitation Center  

  Psychiatric Care & Rehabilitation
NGO FOR WANDERING MENTALLY ILL
 


  • Half - Yearly Updates

    • 2017



    Dear Friend,

    It gives me immense pleasure and joy in informing you that in the year 2016 gone by, we have picked up, treated, and after their recovery, successfully reunited with their families, 742 mentally ill roadside destitutes. This works out to averaging a successful pickup and reunion rate of 2 destitutes on EVERY SINGLE DAY of the calendar year.

    From a reunion total of a 47 destitutes in the year 2006 (averaging a mere 4 per month) when the Karjat project was inaugurated, to have touched total reunions of 742 destitutes in 2016, just ten years down the line, actually warms the cockles of our hearts. 

    The entire credit for this goes to our team of doctors/social workers/nurses/ local staff who have unconditionally slogged it out with commitment and dedication to bring this element of joy, hope and happiness in the lives of these 742 destitutes and their families. Words fail me in describing their superhuman efforts (A Team Shraddha Pic Attached).

    On a very personal level, one is never certain as to what one has done is ever, EVER, adequate. Or whether what has been done has made a difference to the quantum of the cause of the wandering mentally-ill in itself, given the lack of awareness and stigma which surrounds mental illness in our country. Perhaps in terms of the real harshness of the situation, very little has been done. But this is all that we could muster and come up with, this is all that our team  had to offer to the Gods above. 742 destitutes WERE picked up, treated and after recovery, reunited with their families in different parts and remote corners of India. And all the inbuilt psychiatric-illness-awareness-sessions which go hand in hand with these reunions WERE achieved. Resulting in, perhaps and hopefully, some miniscule amelioration of the pain which exists in the families of the mentally-ill, a pain so widely prevalent and distributed all over India. 

    Whether the roadmap for the cause of the wandering mentally-ill was in itself lighted up, or whether the horizons of psychiatric awareness were set ablaze, or whether a single candle was lit for a single destitute, or whether nothing was lit at all, we know not. Perhaps Light prevailed, perhaps nothing prevailed at all. Being human, one is fallible, unsure and always on shaky grounds. But an attempt was made. A honest, sincere, bottom-of-the-heart attempt WAS MADE to do just that little bit for the cause of the mentally-ill downtrodden. An attempt that has left all of us at Shraddha emotionally drained but hugely and immensely emotionally satisfied too. 

    Thank you being a part of Shraddha, and for all the blessings and support all along, during this arduous journey of ours. 

    Wishing you a very Happy and Peaceful New Year.

    Dr Bharat Vatwani 
    Team Shraddha


    P.S.: A Very Short 5 minutes Shraddha Video link has been attached for your perusal : https://youtu.be/egm1JcFxJNY





  • July 2016

    Dear Friend,

    Greetings of the beautiful monsoon season.

    Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation continues to be the pioneering NGO dealing with the cause of the wandering mentally ill, having its own Rehabilitation Center at Karjat, Maharashtra wherein at any point in time, a hundred mentally ill roadside destitutes are being housed, treated and cared for. All services of Shraddha continue to be provided free of charge.

    Moving forward, we are very glad to share with you that we have crossed the first half of 2016 with 336 reunions of destitutes with their families throughout India, post their psychiatric improvement. Mostly every reunion did make a marking step of love, healing & joy in the lives of the reunited families and all the others who were involved in the loop of saving a precious life.

    Herewith sharing a few of these touching stories with all of you, being very much aware that you have been an integral part of this life changing process.

    The first was the case of a very elderly male destitute named Kashi Maurya, who was found in Karjat itself near our Rehab centre, in a terribly weak debilitated state, not able to speak or communicate. Purely on humanitarian grounds, thinking he would die on the streets if he would have spent one more day there, Shraddha social workers decided to take him in. His left full arm (below the shoulder) was already amputated before he was found by us. As treatment and care started, slow improvement set in. But within a few days he became medically critical and developed heart failure. This is where Dr Rashmin Cholera's (Director of DY Patil Hospital in Nerul, Navi Mumbai and a fellow colleague of our Trustee) magnanimous words 'DY Patil is your hospital. Use it as you please for the service of the wandering mentally-ill inmates of Shraddha. Not a single rupee will be charged' came to our minds and we shifted Kashi to DY Patil Hospital. The ICU team there put their heart into it and managed to pull Kashi out of his heart failure and after two weeks, Kashi was back in Shraddha. But still unable to utter a word. But even with the limited non-verbal communication of his, his utter and final desire to be with his family was very much there and repeatedly conveyed by him. Meanwhile through our network, we had tried our best to trace all links to his relatives among the "Maurya" community in UP and Bihar to which he belonged, but all in vain. Seeing his elderly age and fluctuating health, and his elderly pleading eyes, we decided to at least make an attempt to hunt down his antecedents, and the arduous journey started. While earlier he could barely write his name, now he had somehow managed to write the word "Jau" in Hindi in his tremulous handwriting and this seemed to us as the short form of "Jaunpur" District in Uttar Pradesh. Literally looking for a needle in a haystack, our social workers took Kashi with them and searched 13 villages over two days specifically among the same "Maurya" community in Jaunpur District. It was while a similar discussion with a new group was going on, that all of a sudden Kashi's face lighted up when a word denoting the confluence of five consecutive bridges within a span of 1 km, was mentioned by one of them. As per the newly received clue, our team proceeded ahead and as they were nearing the first bridge one villager recognized Kashi and guided them home. There were no boundaries for the tears of ecstasy which were on both sides as he met with his family. His real brother was a doctor himself who found him in an excellent health condition and told us that Kashi had a neuro-paralytic attack, which had reached a state wherein his arm had to be amputated. Within a short span of time he had lost his voice as well and one day had finally gone missing. All this happened in a period of 18 months approx. The searches by the doctor had gone futile and all had lost hope to see him again. But Fortune had a different say altogether, and turning the tide, Kashi was reunited with his kith and kin (Newspaper article & Reunion pic attached).

    The second was a female destitute, referred by a few college students, who was lying on the footpath at Dadar, apparently with her two small children (Pic attached). Initially we thought she must be a beggar, but our social workers confirmed that she was mentally ill. Her name was Shalu Shinde. She was running high grade fever. She was brought to our Karjat center, and blood investigations revealed that she was suffering from typhoid. Apart from this, she had a hernia in her abdominal wall, through which her intestine was partially protruding out (Pic attached). Despite the best of treatment in Karjat, her fever was unrelenting, and one day when her fever touched to 107 Degrees, we again sought recourse of DY Patil Hospital. A second time around, the doctors at DY Patil Hospital rose to the occasion and not only was the fever brought under control, but finally the surgeons did corrective surgery on the hernia. She was in DYP for almost a month, and all along, because psychiatric treatment was also going on from our side, she improved radically on all frontiers. Her relatives were traced out (she had an eldest child apart from the two on the road) and finally the parents of Shalu Shinde (her husband had expired), Shalu herself, and the three children (Pic attached), all finally reunited and eternally grateful, took off like one well-rounded family to their home in their village in Beed District, Maharashtra.

    The last one, the most unbelievable of all reunions, and the first ever such case in the chronicles of Shraddha, was of a 70 year old elderly destitute, Inderjeet Ghai who was reunited with his brother and family after a lengthy span of 54 years in Jalandhar, Punjab. This destitute was firstly rescued by Mumbai Police in a near-death state with almost-fatal head injuries and sent to a home run by the Missionaries of Charity in Mumbai. After initially taking care of the wounds, the Missionaries found him unmanageable because of his psychiatric symptoms, and Inderjeet was shifted to Shraddha for further management. Initially he was aggressive, abusive, irrelevant and paranoid, but as treatment progressed, good recovery was visible, in spite of his elderly age and co-existing Parkinsonism. A deep desire to meet his own blood relatives started showing up. His home town address was Jalandhar and nothing more than that. Thence started the journey of Inderjeet, escorted by our social worker, to search for his roots. Once a small town, Jalandhar had now outgrown into a huge city with no resemblance of its earlier self. The house hunt in this place was very, very exhaustive and finding Inderjeet's relatives was nothing less than a mammoth task. But finally reunion took place and the family had the happiest shock of their life to see Inderjeet alive and well. The tears of elation had no boundaries (Before Pic & Newspaper article attached).

    Taking this opportunity to share my own personal journey with Shraddha - Almost two years after my post-graduation, specializing in Medical & Psychiatric Social Work, I joined Shraddha in Feb 2007. The core idea behind joining Shraddha was to work for a maximum of 2 years, gather bit more work experience, fly abroad and get settled as any other professional like me would opt for. Time went by in the pursuit of this plan and during the course of this time, unknowingly and subconsciously, the grassroot work content of Shraddha initiated the growth of a different but better person in me.

    The genuinity of the work towards the cause of the wandering mentally ill started moving the core areas of my heart and gave birth to thoughts about these unfortunate fellow humans being very much like any of us, and being very much the children of the same Almighty Creator. The innumerable occasions of these real tales of rescue, care and transformation, ending up in great humbling reunions, finally ended up transforming me. I personally was witness to the tears of joy as a reunion turned out to be literally the rebirth of a soul, giving a new dimension of hope and life in the hearts of all connected. An immeasurable, unwinding depth of feelings came within me, finding no words to express the tranquility of those precious moments. It has been almost 10 years, but this supposedly short journey with Shraddha is still continuing in me, in better strength and form, than ever before.

    All these real life stories have made me realize that the Creator himself, who sees the agony and pain of the deprived, tests the genuineness within our hearts, values the sincerity of our efforts and above all answers the staunch pleading of the souls waiting for their missing ones to return, and for whom their eyes have dried up waiting. And the efforts and prayers of all involved finally gets answered in His perfect timing.

    All in all it has been a mystical walk with plenty of wondrous unforgettable experiences to share, giving rise to an oft-quoted prayer within me - O Creator, grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, And the courage to change the things I can, And the wisdom to know the difference.

    And sharing this personal prayer, I remain, in all humility, yours in the service of the wandering mentally ill.

    Denit Mathew
    Project Co-ordinator
    Team Shraddha
    www.shraddharehabilitationfoundation.org

    • Jan 2016

    Dear Friend,

    Last year has been epoch-making for Shraddha in terms of achievement. We picked up, treated and reunited with their families 636 mentally ill roadside destitutes. This works out to 53 destitutes every month. These herculean efforts were obvious in that, despite having a team of 24 social workers on our payroll, on any given day there were only 2-3 social workers physically present in the Karjatcenter, while the rest were all traveling to different parts of India on separately assigned reunion trips. To say that Shraddha has a good dedicated team of social workers is the understatement of the year. This letter is our salute to them. One of the last reunions of the year was in Himachal Pradesh, where the temperature was at a freezing 2 degrees.

    Other heart-tugging instances worth sharing from the year 2015 were: A) A destitute who had been reunited in Uttar Pradesh approximately 23 years back, came down specifically to Mumbai with a box of mangoes and home-made pickles and 'ghee' to trace us out and register his thanks and deep gratitude for saving his life 23 years back. He had brought his own photo of 23 years ago to show the change in him. A very tearful emotional moment. He also visited Karjat (the Karjatcenter was non-existent when his case had been taken up by Shraddha), was moved by the scale of operations and offered his services to help out in the reunion of recovered destitutes in UP. The before-after photos of the boy are attached with this mail.

    B) The very first qualified psychiatric social worker appointed in our Karjatcenter in 2005, a young lad by the name of Jinto Abraham, who put his heart and soul into his work in Shraddha for 3 years, before moving on to Australia, put in a visit to Karjat and ended up donating 50000/- to Shraddha. The once salaried-by-Shraddha boy ended up being a donor-of-Shraddha and topped the act by humbly stating that the money was a mere token for all the good change that Shraddha had brought about in his life.

    C) A destitute who became acutely medically critical was admitted in a nearby private nursing home. An amount close to 90000/- was spent on his treatment (some high-end antibiotics had to be used) but finally he recovered, and finally he was reunited in Bangladesh. Apparently he had a twin brother and the entire village came out to celebrate his homecoming. The boy had become mentally unwell, coincidently during the routine visit of the family to Panipat in India as tourists, and under the influence of the mental illness, the boy happened to get separated from the family. The family had tried high and low to trace him out, but finally disillusioned, had gone back to Bangladesh. All hope was lost, until the boy turned up in the village after a span of 5 years, recovered and in good health. Such are the ways that human lives must untwine, and darkest is the hour before the coming of the Light. The photo of the boy with his twin brother and his elderly parents is attached in the mail.

    D) A destitute picked up from the streets had a metal ring deeply embedded in the index finger of his hand. This deeply embedded ring shows the extent to which mental illness can nullify normal mind functioning. A very delicate operation by our RMO Dr Mhatre and some technical inputs by my classmate Plastic Surgeon colleague Dr Sanjay Vaidya saved the finger from certain gangrene and amputation. The destitute was finally reunited in Jharkhand. The photos of the embedded ring are attached with this mail.

    E) While escorting a female recovered destitute in the border area of West Bengal, our social workers were questioned by the local police, who were on the lookout for people involved in the flesh trade. Upon coming to know of our work and verifying antecedents from Karjat police, they ended up tracing out the village of the recovered female destitute and accompanied our staff all the way to the village. Truth truly prevailed.

    F) A lady on her daily walk to her workplace noticed a mentally ill destitute in a miserable condition on the roads in Byculla in Mumbai. She sent us a mail requesting us to help out. Since all our social workers were out on trips, we requested a social worker-volunteer called Dominique (who by profession was a Telephone Operator in Sion Hospital in Mumbai) to have a look at the destitute. The leg of the mentally ill destitute was decaying because of worms infecting it (maggots). Dominique got the destitute admitted in Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity center (Asha Daan) at Byculla. The Sisters over there started with the treatment of the badly infected leg from the word go. Finally our RMO and social workers visited the destitute in Asha Daan and initiated psychiatric treatment and began tracing out the home address of the boy. A couple of weeks later another team from Shraddha went to Andhra Pradesh and tracked out the parents of the boy. The son had been missing for 16 years and from the photos shown to the parents, they were unsure whether it was their long-lost son. A telephone call to Asha Daan and the voice of their son over the phone dispelled all their fears, and the tears of joy started flowing. Finally the father came over to Mumbai and took his son back to his hometown near Mehboobnagar in Andhra Pradesh. The destitute never truly physically entered our Karjatcenter, but the life was still saved. Good-hearted collaboration of well-meaning souls working it's own magic.

    On a personal note, I truly wish Baba Amte was alive to see our efforts over so many years bear fruit. With the benevolent twinkle in his eyes and the trademark impish smile of his, he would have clasped his hands over mine, and having said nothing (a personal observation of mine that words often failed him when he was truly moved) would have still said it all. To which all I would have wanted to reply would have been 'Baba, Thank you for being there'. But my emotions too would have got the better of me and choking on my words, and after my respects at his feet, a heartwarming long hug would have followed. Years have passed by, the inspirational memories still remain, fresh as the morning dew. Bonding at its emotional best. With our best wishes to you for the New Year and a heart-felt 'Thank you all for being there', I remain, indebted.

    I remain, indebted,
    Dr. Bharat Vatwani
    Team Shraddha
    www.shraddharehabilitationfoundation.org

    • July 2015

    Dear Friend,

    We started the Karjat project on the auspicious occasion of GudhiPadwa 2006. And today on another very auspicious occasion of Eid 2015, we are happy to inform your good self that we crossed an inmate strength of 100 in our center for the first time since the inception of the center. We have today 107 roadside mentally ill destitute patients housed in our center. This is a landmark by itself for us, and we believe that without your blessings and good wishes, this would never have been possible. Believing in the plurality of religion, I wish all of you Eid Mubarak. The Gods have bestowed their kindness on all of us over all these years.

    We picked up, treated and after recovery, finally reunited 294 mentally ill destitutes with their families in the six months gone by. Two reunions were exceptional. Both were in Bihar. One was a reunion in village Badiya of Begusarai district of Bihar wherein the whole village was emotionally touched and gathered en-bloc for the reunion. The photos have been sent as an attachment. The second was a reunion which happened in the village Sajaur of Bhagalpur district of Bihar a fortnight ago of an elderly destitute who had wandered out of house when he was apparently 25 years old, and now was being reunited after 40 years. He belonged to a Muslim family. The paradox of it was that his daughter-in-law had expired on the same day on which the reunion took place, and the father entered the house just half an hour before his daughter-in-law’s funeral procession (janaaza) left his son’s house. While grief was all around, the reunion did bring some respite and a wave of joy to the son, at having been reunited with his father after a span of 40 years. Given the fact that the Ramzaan month was going on, the moment became very poignant and took religious overtones. Such are the ways that human lives must untwine, and darkest is the hour before the coming of the Light.

    A third reunion which deserves mention took place in Lumbini in Nepal, the famed birthplace of Gautam Buddha. The Lumbini local police went all out to bring about the reunion of the boy with his family. One felt blessed to reunite someone in these hallowed grounds.

    The renowned BabulnathMandir Charities of South Mumbai came forward with a donation of 9 lacs for a Force ambulance. Given their long-standing reputation as a donor agency, we considered it an honor and a privilege that they had decided to join in with Shraddha for the cause of the wandering mentally ill destitute.

    50 students of the NSS wing of KonkanGyanpeeth College decided to take a 3 day visit to Prakash Amte’sHemalkasa center in the remote Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. I had the good fortune to accompany them personally. Visiting Prakash Amte’s center is both inspirational and almost like a pilgrimage. One comes back recharged and rejuvenated. The students too got inspired and have since then become the extended family of Shraddha and are actively involved in the pickup of the mentally ill destitutes whom they happen to spot on the roads. The seeds of charitable work have been sown and God willing some of the students shall become the future Prakash Amtes’ of India.

    On a sadder note, the destitute lady whom we had rescued with her pet dog Sashi passed away. The dog Sashi had expired last year (which we had written to your good selves about in an earlier communication), and the lady was a shadow of her former self after her pet dog left her. Finally she too left for her heavenly abode, perhaps to be with her pet, who had stood by her side for innumerable years. While this may not be connected with our work, but I happened to come across an article which questioned as to where do pets go after their demise, and whether they also have their own space in Heaven. To which the reply in the article was given by the pet dog itself, a reply which I remembered when the destitute lady passed away. The pet dog (in this case Sashi) upon her own demise communicates to her master.

    ‘I explained to God, I would rather stay here, outside the pearly gates of Heaven. I will not be a nuisance, I will not even bark, I will be very patient and wait. I will be here, chewing on a celestial bone, no matter how long you may be. I would miss you so much, if I went in alone, it would not be Heaven for me’

    And so it has come about that Sashi’s master has now reunited with her Sashi, and both hopefully are together in Heaven.

    I thought I must share this with you, knowing that we are all eternally bonded in the commonality of existential anguish, pain and grief. On this touching heartrending note, and thanking you once again for having been with us over the years.

    I remain, indebted,
    Dr. Bharat Vatwani
    Team Shraddha
    www.shraddharehabilitationfoundation.org

    • Jan 2015

    Dear Friend,

    Wishing all of you a peaceful, content and blissful 2015.

    We are happy to inform you that we surpassed our reunion tally of 533 for the year 2013 and managed to reunite 538 recovered mentally ill destitutes with their families in the year 2014. A formidable achievement by our team of social workers given that train ticketing and travel has become very difficult to co-ordinate in recent times.

    The most important achievement in all these reunions is that the family/the neighbors/the entire village community of the reunited destitute realizes, upon seeing their relative in a much better psychiatric condition, that psychiatric illness is a treatable entity. Knowledge is generated and shared, myths about psychiatric illness are broken, and above all hope is kindled. Our core strategy of focussing on grassroot awareness of the treatability of mental illness is the backbone of our functioning. Pamphlets describing symptoms/ treatment are distributed and impromptu awareness sessions held in the community by our team of qualified trained social workers. We believe that only this grassroot approach and the dissemination of knowledge will help reduce the incidence of untreated mental illness and its natural aftermath of the mentally ill wandering out on the road under the influence of the illness.

    We share with you two more events.

    One is a letter from the relative of a reunited destitute, who apart from coming forward with a donation of 1.2 Lacs wrote very touching heartwarming words to commend our work. Brilliant sensitivity.

    The second is more on a personal front. Baba Amte’s 100th Birth Anniversary on 26th Dec was celebrated at Prakash Amte’s Hemalkasa center in Gadchiroli district and a book called ‘Yugmudra’ was released on the same day at the event which contained various articles by people who knew Baba Amte well. Since it was common knowledge that I was inspired by Baba, I too was asked to write my experiences /interactions with Baba so the same could be published in that book. Looking upon all of you as family, I share with you the article penned by me.

    Knowing that you are with us in the cause of the wandering mentally ill,

    Affectionately,

    Dr. Bharat Vatwani
    Team Shraddha
    www.shraddharehabilitationfoundation.org

    Appreciation Letter - USA

    The Inward Journey - Baba Amte

    • July 2014

    Dear Friend,

    We are happy to inform you that we have picked up and treated 281 wandering mentally ill roadside destitutes in the first half of this year ending June 30th 2014, and reunited upon recovery these destitutes with their families all over India. The task, which though in actual practical reality is a formidable achievement, was made to seem very simple by our experienced and dedicated team of social workers. As I have mentioned in my earlier communications, they are the true backbone of our NGO. A particular reunion which deserves special mention was of a lady with her brother in Tripura. The journey entailed our social workers going to Guwahati in Assam (it took 52 hours by train), and from there a 24 hour bus ride before finally reaching the hometown of the lady destitute in Tripura. Kudos to them for their sincerity.

    Notable in the pickups this year (actually it was Oct last year) was the case of an elderly lady who was lying on the pavements in front of a Gurudwara in Versova, Mumbai, being protected by none other than her pet dog. The story goes that she was a well known journalist working for a magazine and she had hit upon bad times, and the dog was a Pomeranian who was with her for 14 years. The master and her pet named Sashi were on the road in the most pathetic of conditions, with the dog barking at every passerby and protecting her master with all the instincts which only a dedicated loving pet can manage to have. Apparently the lady’s story had been covered by many newspapers and even some TV channels, and some people had even come forward to help out, but everyone wanted to take the lady in, without her pet. While paradoxically what drew us to her and her story and touched our conscience was her pet dog. If there was one soul which deserved shelter, it was the pet’s. We took her in into our Borivli center and made a small room in our stilt area and provided both, the elderly lady and her pet, with space and shelter. The pet Sashi was quite old already and had to be taken to the vet many times, and in the weeks gone by, has been detected with cardiac failure, and though on cardiac medication, is on her last legs. But even now if someone goes near her master, Sashi barks, albeit feebly, and renders visible her protective streak. And the elderly lady on her part is abstaining from food & undertaking a fast in the hope that her pet survives. Such are the emotions that the living are made of. Such are the emotions which inspire us to reach out to them.

    Another notable event was us picking up 30 mentally ill destitutes at a single shot from Gujarat in the newly donated ambulance. God bless the donors who came forward magnanimously and chipped in for the ambulance.

    On a despondent note, donations seem to have dropped and we are finding it difficult to meet our expenses and are being forced to dip into our FD’s, the interest of which was helping as buffer all along. Our annual expenses last year were well over the 84 lakh mark. While we have never ever openly asked for help or moved around with a begging bowl (as is the wont with many other NGO’s), one does occasionally wonder whether the low key approach that we have is the right approach. However we have left it to the Gods above to be the judge and jury on that count. And we still believe, and into infinity hope to continue to believe, that good work will continue provided there is some innate goodness in the work.

    On a personal front, I completed 10 years of having met Baba Amte, the man who changed my life and allowed me to move beyond my comfort zone and literally single-handedly inspired me to set up the Karjat project. While he is no more, it is no small consolation that in Anandwan (his huge project near Wardha for the leprosy afflicted), the place where he along with his loving wife Sadhanatai have been buried after their demise, has been named Shraddhawan. Sharing personal moments, I did go on my birthday this year to Anandwan and paid homage at his tombstone at Shraddhawan and broke down as only a child could at the grave of his father. While I do not know whether our efforts over the last 10 years have really created or made any difference to the plight of the wandering mentally ill, I do know that the attempt has been sincere, and the honesty & sincerity in our efforts is our offering to the departed soul of Baba Amte. May his soul rest in peace and continue to bless our work.

    Thanking you for being a part of this journey. Good times, difficult times, all of you have always been there.

    Dr. Bharat Vatwani
    Team Shraddha

    P.S. : The pet dog Sashi breathed her last today morning.While the winds may pass our way once more, for now they carry with them the sound of silence

    • Jan 2014

    Dear Friend,

    A Happy New Year to all of you. May the Gods bestow their good wishes in abundance upon you and your loved ones.

    We are pleased to inform you that we have been able to reunite with their families 533 mentally ill roadside destitutes after recovery in the year 2013. This finally allowed us to accomplish our cherished dream of crossing the 500 reunions mark in a calendar year. A big heartfelt thank you to all of you who made this possible.

    Notable amongst the reunions was a reunion in Madhya Pradesh of an elderly destitute whose son was in the army. The son had been touring the whole of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh on his motor cycle, using all his army contacts, searching personally for his missing father and on the very day our social workers brought his father to his home town, he was returning from the railway station having just booked a train ticket to some place to continue the search for his missing father. His tears knew no bounds on seeing his father, and our joy knew no boundaries.

    Another cherished reunion was the 500th one. A well wisher of ours had a friend of his contact him for an elderly man who was lying near the railway track at Panvel station. He had been apparently lying there for 2-3 days with no one even giving a second glance. The friend took him to a local Municipal Hospital where he was admitted, but the Hospital subsequently refused to keep him for the night claiming they had no night staff. The friend desperately contacted our well wisher, who contacted us and finally they brought the destitute in an ambulance to our Karjat Centre. The destitute was paralysed on one side of his body and paradoxically had no psychiatric disturbance. Ideally our centre should not have given him shelter, but given the flow of emotions, we helped out. The Gods taking heed of the positivity and the genuinity in the case, the destitute improved. From someone whom we thought might die in our center (with the CT scan showing gross damage) he gradually started walking (with support) and talking. He turned out to be from Karnataka. And given his frail condition, we decided we send him directly by ambulance all the way to his village in Gulbarga in Karnataka. Our staff tells us that the look on his face and the tears in his eyes upon entering his village and meeting his family was worth all the hardships we had suffered along the way. And the Sarpanch and the villagers literally gave a resounding ovation to our staff. We had touched the magic figure of 500 reunions in a Calendar Year.

    NGO’s and Govt. Mental Hospitals reached out to us for help and we continued to assist them by bringing their mentally ill destitutes to our Karjat Centre and from there reuniting them with their families all over India. In fact, the Mental Health Secretary of Gujarat, Dr Ajay Chauhan, who also happens to be the Superintendent of Ahmedabad Mental Hospital, personally visited our Karjat Centre and was all praise for our work. He also motivated the staff to continue and expand the work.

    Our work got recognition and coverage in various newspapers in Tamilnadu, Jharkhand, Kerala, Orissa, and the noted Gujarati journalist Rajnikumar Pandya wrote an article spread out over two issues in Janmabhoomi. This served the purpose of spreading awareness in the general public about the treatability of mental illness.

    But in all honesty, it will be difficult to continue our work at this pace, because the financial logistics, the workforce logistics and the travel logistics are becoming difficult to cope up with. Our social workers have to stand overnight outside the railway station ticket counters to get Tatkal tickets, and sometime even after doing that, the tickets are not available. The expenses are mounting and in the year gone by, we have incurred an expense of 18 lakhs on the reunion travel expense alone.

    While 533 reunions in a Calendar Year may seem laudable, the truth is that there are still innumerable mentally ill on the road, and very often we feel that what we are doing is inadequate, not even the proverbial drop in the ocean.

    And on a personal front, age and exhaustion seem to be setting in. On one hand is the passion to continue on the chosen path, and on the other is the acknowledgement that we are only human, and can only do so much. As has always been the case over the years, one looks again towards God for direction.

    Thanking you for so much love, concern and understanding over the years.

    Dr. Bharat Vatwani
    Team Shraddha


    For more information on our NGO you can log on to www.shraddharehabilitationfoundation.org

    • July 2013

    Dear Friend,

    We are happy to inform you that we have reunited 266 recovered mentally ill destitutes with their families all over India in the past six months from Jan to June. Our target for this year is 500 reunions, and we seem to be steadily focussed and heading towards that objective.

    Two particular instances during this period deserve special mention.

    One was when we assisted off the road a mentally ill destitute who, despite all language barriers between him and us, finally turned out to be a foreigner and hailed from Iran. After recovery of this patient we approached and were greatly helped by the Iranian Embassy in Mumbai and the FRRO branch of Mumbai Police (which deals with foreign visitors on Indian soil) and finally were able to send him back to his home country Iran. It was a truly gratifying experience. True social work knows no territorial boundaries.

    The second was when we sent 25 recovered destitutes accompanied by 15 of our social workers for reunion to different parts of India on a single day in the month of May. This was collaborative effort by our dedicated team of social workers at its very best.

    Our collaboration with various NGO’s and Govt Mental Hospitals continues with 92 of these 266 recovered destitutes hailing from such Institutions, notable amongst which was Ahmedabad Mental Hospital, with direct collaboration of Dr Ajay Chauhan, the Mental Health Secretary of Gujarat.

    On the donations front the noted writer Shri Russi Lala (who also happened to be the Biographer of the equally legendary Shri JRD Tata) recently passed away and bequeathed in his Will a sum of Rs. 15 lacs for our Trust. Far beyond this amount, what will remain with us are his constant blessings and his genuine goodwill for our endeavours. His was a guiding word through the ups and downs of our Karjat project. May God bless his soul.

    We were also honoured and felicitated by the Maharashtra Chambers of Housing Industry (MCHI) with a donation of Rs. 5 lacs.

    All in all decent tidings to share with all of you who have been our constant supporters over the years.

    At a very personal level, age is catching up and exhaustion does set in at times. Being human, all of us have our limits. But the will to continue on our chosen path of service and succour to the wandering mentally ill finally wins over all such negative bouts of emotions, and God ultimately gives the energy and the drive to continue. How long one can last is left to the Gods above. At the end of the day, good work will continue provided there is inherent goodness in the work itself. Thanking all of you for being constant pillars of support over the years.

    Dr. Bharat Vatwani
    Team Shraddha
    • Jan 2013
Dear Friend,

First and foremost wishing you a Peaceful and Blissful New Year.

The year gone by has possibly been the best for Shraddha, in terms of what we have achieved and the accolades which we have received.

For starters, we have reunited 493 recovered mentally ill destitutes with their families all over India. Far surpassing our target of one reunion a day for the whole calendar year. The really satisfying part was that of these 493 destitutes, 160 of them were destitutes from different NGO’s / Mental Hospitals all over India. Destitutes who had recovered but these NGO’s / Mental Hospitals did not have the infrastructural staff to reunite them with their families. They collaborated with us, and used our social worker strength of over 30 staff to reunite these destitutes with their families in remote corners and distant villages all over India. Vice versa these NGO’s have started assisting the wandering mentally ill people off the roads within their area, have taken in fresh inmates into their institution, thus increasing the quantum of actual services rendered to the cause of the mentally ill manifold. The entire functioning of Shraddha has now become broad spectrum and truly pan-national.

The Hyderabad centre in collaboration with Valuelabs (an IT corporate giant in Hyderabad) became operational on 25th December and we shifted our first bunch of 10 destitutes into the same. We are hoping that with input from local psychiatrists and local infrastructural staff, we would help in replicating an independently functioning centre over there, with only the occasional technical inputs as the need arises, from our end. If this collaboration is a success, we are hoping to rope in other corporates in other cities and help in setting up similar independently functioning centres across India.

Colleges have continued to have their field visits and NSS camps in our centre and on our campus at Karjat. In fact the motivation of the youth has been inspirational to us. A lot of visitors have continuously streamed in to have a look at our NGO and its functioning, given the fact that our NGO welcomes visitors with open arms. Some may have contributed, but definitely all have blessed the project, and these blessings have meant a lot to us.

All in all, a very strong team effort and a sense of ‘the cause above self’ has started yielding tangible outcomes. Even as I write this letter, our team of social workers have left to reunite 7 recovered destitutes in Uttar Pradesh, despite the biting cold and the fog conditions. The real kudos belongs to them.

On a personal level, for years in the initial phases of our charitable activities, I had been unable to look a mentally ill destitute in the eye, because I had always felt that I had done nothing really worthwhile for his/her cause. Emotional empathy for them alone was not enough. In fact I had gone through feelings of abject helplessness and a bad patch of depression because of the same. Today with your blessings and the blessings of a God above, I believe that we have contributed something, even if that something is miniscule given the huge quantum of the cause of the wandering insane. Looking at the positivity in the scenario, better a miniscule-something contribution rather than nothing. Though the oft quoted ‘Miles to go, promises to keep, dreams to fulfil, before we sleep’ still very much remains.

On the accolades front, Times Now news channel chose our NGO as part of its ongoing Amazing Indians campaign, giving national coverage to the cause of the mentally ill.

A lot of good people and a lot of good wishes go into making a team. Thanking you for being a part of it and being there with us over the years.

Emotionally bonded with you as always,

Dr. Bharat Vatwani
Team Shraddha   

P.S - A special thanks to a doctor collegiate friend of mine, Dr. Ali Poonawala, a Urologist by profession, who decided upon a unique way to generate funds and awareness about Shraddha and its activities. He happened to be a resident of Bangalore and cycled from Bangalore to Pune, a distance of 900 km, in a span of 5 days, starting on Jan 12th, and dedicated this cycling expedition ride to our Shraddha. You can send your wishes & your monetary pledges to him on alfapoona@hotmail.com


  • June 2012
Dear Friend,

Sharing good news, we have picked up, treated, and reunited 196 mentally ill roadside destitutes in this year till June 30th, making it over one reunion a day. So on any calendar day of this year, one mentally ill destitute, who has been assisted off the street, and who has recovered in our Shraddha, is taken to his/her home in some village/town/city and reunited with his family in some corner of India.

An achievement which will definitely warm the cockles of your hearts.

And the entire credit of this goes to our team of 24 social workers (17 male and 7 female) who are travelling the length and breadth of our country, in conditions which can become definitely gruelling. Their enthusiasm is not dampened by the overcrowded trains and difficult journey conditions. Without much noise and hoopla, they chip away with quiet determination.

It is very often the norm in India that the achievements of any NGO are credited to its Founders/Trustees, but in our case the true deservers of all the credit is this team of 24 social workers, who have relentlessly stuck to the task. May the Gods give them the blessings which they truly deserve. May they have all your blessings too.

Also what has happened in these last six months is that various NGO’s all over India are coming to understand the significance of reuniting a destitute with his family. They realize that at least the destitute has a chance at family life, a fresh chance at emotional bondings all over again. They have realized that this is a much better option, a more humane option than the destitutes living in an NGO for the rest of their lives. So various NGO’s have either started contacting us for assisting them in the reunions of their inmates or have started reuniting destitutes on their own. At least the process of re-integrating a destitute back in society has started. A more compassionate and inclusive approach, by all standards.

So we are interacting with Chennai Mental Hospital, Bhuj Mental Hospital, Helping Hands in Chennai, Athma Institute in Trichy, Missionaries of Charity in Pune/Mumbai, Ishwar Sankalp in Kolkata, Asha Deep in Guwahati, Mandbudhi Jan Ashram in Palitana, Anbagam in Chennai, Maher in Pune, and Navchetan Ashram in Bhuj. The collaborations are doing the cause of the wandering destitute all over India a world of good.

The police personnel all over India also need to be applauded in coming forward as a constant source of assistance in tracing out the families of the patients whom we take for reunion in distant villages. In fact our social workers, whenever in difficulty, end up in police stations, with the destitute in tow, to seek out their help in tracing out antecedents of the family. And the police have never let us down.

All in all, good interactions during these 6 months from likeminded people have kept the momentum going strong and the mood really upbeat. We are hoping and WE BELIEVE WE SHOULD CONTINUE IN THIS SAME MOMENTUM IN THE TIMES TO COME.

For the plight of the wandering destitute beckons us to take things forward, knowing that the destitute yearns for someone to take care of him, and that someone is you and us.

Hoping that your care, concern and compassion towards the mentally ill continues to remain for all time to come,

We remain, eternally indebted to your support, guidance and encouragement

Affectionately

Dr. Bharat Vatwani
Team Shraddha   




  • Jan 2012
Dear Friend,

We are pleased to inform you that in the year 2011 gone by, we have picked up 332 mentally ill destitutes off the streets, brought them to our center in Karjat, treated them for their mental illness and finally reunited them with their families in different corners of India. This is a six fold increase in the quantum of work compared to the meagre 47 destitutes which we had picked up in the year 2006 when we had conceptualised and initialized the Karjat project.

More and more people have come forward to lend support in this task. Sensitive emotional articles about our activities in the Marathi magazine ‘Anubhav’ and newspapers such as ‘Kutch Mitra’ ‘Janmabhoomi’ and ‘Divya Bhaskar’ have touched the common man and brought them out of the closet of indifference.

Awareness has also increased many fold with many people visiting our center. Various colleges have organized a 7 day residential stay at our center in the form of a NSS ( National Social Service) camp of their 60 – 150 NSS students, most notable being Elphinstone College, Ruia College, SNDT College and Jai Bharat College of Mumbai.

We have increased our bed strength by 48 beds (24 each being contributed by Rotary Club Of Queens Necklace, Mumbai and ONGC, Mumbai respectively) and now on any given day we have 70 to 80 destitutes staying within the facility.

Our tie up with Valuelabs in Hyderabad has also increased considerably and we have picked up over 100 destitutes from Hyderabad itself and are in the process of collaborating with them for a similar centre as ours for the mentally ill destitutes in Hyderabad itself.

Various NGOs have started corresponding and have taken pointers from us as to the importance of treating and reuniting destitutes with their families, rather than hoarding them and increasing their numbers in their NGO.

While this may be construed as good work by some, to be frank, very often during this journey of ours over the years, we ourselves have experienced emotions that what we are doing is too little and too less, given the vast magnitude and the numbers of the mentally ill destitutes on the streets of India. And we have been often demoralized by the poverty of the families with whom we have reunited these destitutes and the lack of psychiatric medical facilities in the vicinity of the families concerned. Making us wonder at the futility of our efforts.

However each time a statement made by Mother Teresa “ We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop” has gave us the renewed vigour to continue on this daunting but destined task of ours.

In the hope that we continue to have your blessings and support in this vigour of ours, and have the courage to persevere with it ourselves,

Yours in the service of the mentally ill downtrodden

Dr. Bharat Vatwani
Team Shraddha   


  • June 2011

Dear Friend,

Giving you good news, we have picked up, treated, and reunited 164 mentally ill roadside destitutes in this year till June 30th making it close to one reunion a day. This has taken tremendous commitment on the part of our team, during a time when train tickets are just not available, and our staff has had to travel long distances unreserved, sitting on the floor in the train coaches, quite often next to the toilets. Gruelling task, but done with dedication and dignity. All of us believing that if the task has to be done, it has to be done at any and every cost, travel hardships inclusive. We are all duty bound, conscious bound.

Police personnel have become sensitized to the wandering insane and have escorted many mentally ill destitutes to our center for treatment. Not to mention that the police are a constant source of assistance and of phenomenal help even in tracing out the families of the patients whom we take for reunion in distant villages.

Innumerable visitors have come in, people have started coming forward with material and other donations, and the general population have started appreciating the cause and our commitment towards it.

A case in point was with Valuelabs, an IT solutions corporate company based in Hyderabad, who have sponsored the entire treatment and rehabilitation costs of 57 wandering mentally ill from the streets of Hyderabad this year alone, and are planning to set up a center on the lines of Shraddha in Hyderabad itself, with technical expertise and assistance from us.

Another interesting development was with Neptune Developers based in Mulund whose staff picked up over this span of few months 13 mentally ill wandering patients in their vicinity, brought them to Karjat, sponsored their expenses, followed up on them while they were under treatment in Karjat, and followed up even after reunion. Brilliant hands on involvement.

Two doctors from nearby Ahmednagar have also visited our Karjat center, been really emotionally moved by our activities, and are setting up centers in Ahmednagar on similar lines for the wandering insane.

A 7 day residential NSS camp organized by South Mumbai’s prestigious Elphinstone College resulted in awareness of over 100 students to the plight of these destitutes. A subsequent follow up visit by 11 professors of the same college resulted in even further awareness and sensitization and a spontaneous donation of 25500/-.

SAIL (Steel Authority of India Ltd) stood by their commitment and came forward with a donation of Solar water heaters for all the units costing over 2.5 lacs.

All in all good interactions during these 6 months from like minded people such as you have kept the momentum going strong and the mood really upbeat. MAKING US BELIEVE THAT OUR WORK IS NOT AN ISOLATED ENTITY, BUT INSTEAD IS GRADUALLY BECOMING INTO A MOVEMENT. WE ARE NOT ALONE IN THIS EFFORT, YOU ARE WITH US, WE ARE A LEGION.

And that desolate mentally ill man on that dark lonely street, should not consider himself alone, but instead should be made to believe that someone cares for him, and that is you and us.

Hoping that your care, concern and compassion towards the mentally ill continues to remain for all time to come,

We remain, eternally indebted to your support, guidance and encouragement

Affectionately

Dr. Bharat Vatwani
Founder Trustee  
  • Jan 2011
Dear Friends,

It has been 5 years since we started our Karjat project for the mentally ill roadside destitutes, the wandering insane as they are referred to by lay people.

Giving hardcore statistical figures we have picked up, treated, and reunited with their families in different parts of India.
47 destitutes in the year 2006
134 destitutes in the year 2007
156 destitutes in the year 2008
212 destitutes in the year 2009
261 destitutes in the year 2010

810 mentally ill roadside wandering destitutes in all. Work in which all of you have contributed your might, effort, worth and blessings. Work in which all of you have made us believe that you are our family, the backbone and the pillars of strength, and made us believe that we are not alone, but are a legion. Made us believe that in this crusade against the atrocities suffered by the mentally ill destitute, yours and our efforts are gradually becoming into a movement.

Innumerable visitors have started visiting the centre, innumerable residential NSS student camps of various colleges have been held over the years, collaboration with various like minded NGO’s / Institutions who care for the mentally ill has been initiated, innumerable awareness programs about psychiatric illness have been held in different villages and colleges of India, and the work has gathered momentum. Our basic objectives of removing the myths and stigma surrounding mental illness, bringing focus to the fact that mental illness is a treatable entity and bringing about a certain concern and care towards the plight of the wandering mentally ill are being addressed in earnest.

Gradually we hope that the work will multiply manifold and other NGO’s / Corporates / Institutions / Doctors / Psychiatrists / Qualified social workers / Socially minded people will independently and on their own take to this cause of the mentally afflicted downtrodden to take the struggle to the next level and our society will witness the much needed revolution towards this neglected and rejected segment of human existence.

Until then, both you and us keep plugging away. Bonded by our common compassion towards the suffering of the mentally ill. Bonded by our common value systems, our common efforts & the blessings of the common Gods above.

THANK YOU FOR BEING THERE. Simple words but from the bottom of our heart.


Dr. Bharat Vatwani
Founder Trustee



  • Aug 2010
Dear Friend,

In a journey spanning 22 years, we believe that last year has been the most fulfilling in terms of our social work. While pursuing a cause as challenging and daunting as the cause of the mentally ill roadside destitute, very often we are laid low, if only temporarily, because of the hardships that we face. Coupled with the modern man’s apathetic approach towards human suffering, occasionally one does end up wanting to throw in the towel and calling it quits. Of course we have bounced back every time, but to be honest to ourselves, at times it has been a tough call.

But not so last year.

We picked up, treated, rehabilitated and reunited 212 destitutes in the year 2009 and so far this year we have reunited 125 mentally ill destitutes with their families. The reunions have been majorly emotional, warming our hearts and tugging away at the corners of our souls.

Reminding us that life still matters and God still cares.

And we believe that your blessings and encouragement have gone a long way in giving us this job satisfaction. Not to mention, inspired us to do more.

When good, kind hearted, like minded souls pitch in, the Gods bestow their much needed benevolence. And what would ordinarily be thought of as good luck, becomes a preordained, synchronized destiny.

We look forward to your continued blessings.

Thanking your good self for all that you have done, we remain, indebted,

In the service of the mentally ill roadside destitutes.

  • Jan 2010
Dear Friend,

The year gone by has been the best year of our lives as far as job satisfaction and actual charitable work goes.

After appropriate treatment and recovery, we have reunited 212 mentally ill roadside destitutes with their families in different states & distant corners of India. This far surpasses our earlier dream objective of reuniting one destitute every alternate day of the year.

Your blessings and your support have really worked wonders.

Other good news that we want to share with you :

a) 100 students of Vaze College of Mulund, Mumbai held a NSS camp and stayed in our Karjat Centre for a whole week, interacted with the patients & helped out in the activities.

b) 120 students of Konkan Vidyapeeth College also held a NSS camp and stayed in for a whole week, interacted wonderfully with the inmates and even conducted an Awareness March and a Street Play in Karjat to highlight the plight of the mentally ill. 40 of their students even came for the Republic Day flag hoisting, such was the personal equation which they had developed with the patients.

c) Valuelabs, one of the leading IT corporates of Hyderabad continued to sponsor the pick up of mentally ill destitutes. So far we have successfully assisted & treated 47 destitutes from Hyderabad itself. A brilliant hands on collaboration, with their staff personally coming for the pickup & reunions. In the last trip to pickup destitutes, the wife of the CEO personally accompanied our staff, boosting morale no end.

d) Nasik’s MVP Samajache College of Social Work, and Satara’s Yeshwantrao Chavan Institute of Social Sciences organised a one day visit for all their students to our Centre.

e) SNDT college of Churchgate, Mumbai also organized a visit for their students pursuing postgraduation in social work.
f) Two nurses from England, specializing in psychiatric nursing came for their 3 week inhouse residential international posting & training programme and stayed in our Centre. They even escorted patients to Bhopal in the reunion trips.

g) And to top it all, 10 students from Washington University pursuing a postgraduate career in social work & accompanied by their professor, put in a full day field visit to our Centre.

h) Not to be left far behind, our social workers have designed awareness posters, easily-understandable-language handbills of psychiatric illness, which they distribute freely in the villages they visit, while reuniting the patient with his family. Word spreads in the train when they travel and at the railway stations when they alight.

Grassroot Awareness & Actual Ground - Zero Work. Awareness at its very best with all apprehensions, doubts and misconceptions about mental illness removed in totality. And this nucleus of awareness is only likely to propagate further by word of mouth.

Change is being brought about in a section of society because of our efforts. Change in the attitude of people towards psychiatric illness, change towards the cause of the mentally ill destitute.

Your blessings continue to inspire us to do more.

In the hope they remain with us for all time to come.

Because Good happens only when the collective forces of the greater common good of mankind come together to the fore.


Dr. Bharat Vatwani
Founder Trustee

P.S. Sharing further good news, Steel Authority of India (SAIL) agreed to sponsor the Rs.4.82 lakh cost of Solar Water Heaters. As their slogan goes, there is a little bit of SAIL in everybody’s life. It just entered the lives of the mentally ill destitutes housed at Karjat. Praise be to the Gods above.

 
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 Psychiatric Care & Rehabilitation center for Mentally ill roadside destitutes & schizophrenia patients