On a cloudy day in a dingy lane of the Kaparada slums in Kancharapalem, 83-three-old Digumarthi Venkayamma waits for lunchtime to meet her big family of 35 children.
Soon, lunch is served in the hall adjoining the terrace of Venkayamma’s modest dwelling.
There are moments of laughter followed by some strict words of discipline as she surrounds herself with the orphan children, who have been her extended family for the past eight years.
Life hasn’t been particularly kind to her with her own sons and daughters refusing to take up her responsibility.
But, thanks to the efforts of three youngsters — Mounika Sharma, Amita Royale, and Lavanya Lata — Venkayamma spends her days with her ‘big family’ in the twilight years of her life.
It was in the year 2006 when the three friends, who were then pursuing their graduation, met Venkayamma. Moved by her family story and many others like her, the youngsters decided to start an old-age home and orphanage after Venkayamma volunteered to give her house to start the organisation.
Thus, Wisemen Foundation was formed.
Nine years hence, the foundation has become a symbol of hope for 35 orphan children and 10 destitute old women.
The children study in various classes in municipal schools, and 16 of them, who scored above 90 per cent marks, go to a private school. The organisation also has day-care 30 children, who hail from families of alcohol addicts.
“Before starting the foundation, we used to visit slums and distribute egg and milk to neglected old people. There, we also came across many children who had nobody to support them. It was heart wrenching to hear the stories,” said Mounika, who works as project engineer in a private firm in the city.
This experience changed her life forever, and soon, along with her two friends, she embarked on a selfless journey to support the needy.
“Our aim is to not only provide shelter to the children but also give them education so that they can fight back in life and be self-sufficient,” said Amita, a research coordinator in a pharma company.
What’s wonderful about speaking with the three girls is their affection for the children and for the cause they have embraced. The organisation is run with the salaries of the youngsters.
“It has not been an easy task for us to dedicate our earnings for a social cause, especially with family and society pressures mounting on us,” said Lavanya Lata, who works as a teacher in a private school.
It is the smiles on the faces of the children that keep them going.
“Watching the children grow is just amazing, because they gave us so much. If we want to alleviate poverty, we have to believe that it is possible and take those solutions that are there,” they added.