How 22 Orphanages in India Celebrate Mother’s Day

May 6, 2016Posted by Wendy Joan Biddlecombe

Thanks to the work of one determined woman, Mother’s Day is still a cause for celebration for 2,000 children in 22 orphanages across southern and central India.

In fact, it has been for the past 16 years.

Every Mother’s Day, children and staff at orphanages that partner with The Miracle Foundation, a nonprofit that works to raise the standard of living and care, honor the 100 “house mothers” who each care and love 20 orphans as their own.

Because the children don’t have biological mothers of their own, the day is spent strengthening the bonds and relationships these children have with the women who nurture them every day.

Miracle Foundation child Credit photographerLynne Dobson

One out of every childbirth in India ends with the death of the mother, and many of these children carry that guilt with them; that’s why it’s important to help these children establish a loving relationship with their caretaker. Boudreaux believes that this is just as essential as making sure they have clean drinking water, nutritious food, clean clothing and shelter.

“I always thought poverty was about not having things, not having food, not having your basic necessities met,” said the organization’s founder Caroline Boudreaux.  “But I realized that there’s this whole other level of poverty that’s about no one loving you. That’s what these orphans face, and it’s almost worse than being traditionally poor.”

In order to help provide support to the organizations doing this important work, Boudreaux founded The Miracle Foundation on Mother’s Day in 2000, after a trip to India during a year-long break from her successful job in television advertising sales.

Her visit to one single orphanage proved to be both life and career changing when she rocked a baby girl named Sheebani to sleep, and sadly discovered when she put her to bed that she slept on hard wood boards and not in a crib.

A few months later, Boudreaux’s nonprofit was official.

Teaching women who work in the orphanage to properly care for the children is a bit complicated; in many Indian orphanages, house mothers are often referred to as “wardens,” and the up to 80 children they look after are called “inmates.” There likely isn’t a hint of maternal feelings between the child and his or her caretaker, Boudreaux says.

Caroline MIracle No Credit Needed

The Miracle Foundation selects orphanages to work with that demonstrate a willingness to respect the United Nations’ 12 Right of the Child, which include access to clean water and an education. Once Miracle Foundation partners with an orphanage, they bring in more staff so the number of children under a house mother’s care drops to 20 boys and girls of different ages.

The organization begins their work with healthcare and nutrition, vaccinating the children and treating them for skin conditions that arise from dirty water. In fact, the foundation spends 25 percent of its total budget on food so children get varied and satisfying meals. One child interviewed at the New Life orphanage in India’s Telagana state in February said that before The Miracle Foundation came in, they were fed rice and lentils at every meal.

Then comes clean water, electricity, educational tutors, clothing, toiletries and any other necessary improvements. A social worker is brought in to work with the children, and an accountant helps the orphanage budget and predict for the future.

It typically takes orphanages about two years to raise standards and start “running like a company,” Boudreaux said.  The last step happens when The Miracle Foundation leaves, and the orphanage teaches other local institutions what they learned.

Miracle Foundation children Credit photographerLynne Dobson

The Miracle Foundation’s 2016 Mother’s Day campaign is working to fund all 100 house mothers through donations. Celebrations are different at each of the orphanages, but typically include a ceremony for the children to thank their housemother and present her with a gift, such as a flower or scarf. The children also make her a card, and special meal or treat is prepared that day.

“This lets her know she’s doing a very difficult job,” Boudreaux said. “Motherhood is a tough job, and she’s a mother of 20. And if you have had a mother figure in your life then you’re luckier than 153 million children across the world who don’t have parents. There’s no better way to honor a mom than taking care of one. What would you want someone to do if you weren’t there for your children?”

Boudreaux said she’s asked—and has heard criticism about—not helping children in the U.S. To that, she cites the statistic that orphans make up a significant percent of the world’s population.

“This is not about India, this is about orphans,” Boudreaux said. “We use a model and systematic approach that can be used in any country, and needs to be used in every county. All lives are of equal value.”

To figure out how you can help, click here.

Photos by Lynne Dobson

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