Along with experiences, old age brings a lot of challenges in life. But at the time when they need utmost care, instead of taking care of their parents and trying to understand their problems, children are deserting their old age parents and many of them sending their parents to old age homes these days, forgetting their social and moral responsibility for those who cared them.
In the heartless world, where the elder may not have youthful appeal and voice to get heard, forty-two-year-old Sebati Singh, a resident of Keonjhar town in Odisha, has been helping old people and taking care of their health. She is a mother of many helpless souls, most of whom are of her father’s age or even older. She spends all of her time looking after these old people who have been abandoned by their children, whom.
We spoke to the woman who has been taking care of the elderly people, who have been deserted by their own children.
At a time when the old parents are being deserted by their own children, you set up an old age home. What prompted you to do so?
My father was very helpful in nature. Till his death he always tried to help the old people. When I was in school my father died but his work for the old people left an indelible imprintment in my mind. I used to help the old people from my school career. Therefore, from my study life unknowingly, I started dreaming to do something for them. When I was in college, I found an old couple along a drain. They were about to die. I rescued them and took care of their health and treatment. At that time an old lady named Dinamani Mohanti gave me her small house to keep them and some of my friends also helped me in giving them food and clothes.
Gradually the number of elderly people increased, and reached 17 from 2. I tried to develop the place for them. But since I was working for Dalits, I was considered untouchable by many. So in 1992, I left my home and came to Banajodi village. There we started living in a bamboo house with 17 old people. But I did not have enough money to take care of them so I started giving tuition to 20 students and in return I was getting rice, vegetables and cow dung. It helped me to feed them.
When the matter came to the notice of the then District Magistrate of Keunjhar Arun Panda, a government plot was allotted to us to live. However, this development gave rise to many controversies. Even I got threatening of murder, but the government helped me a lot to get out of this problem. This problem was solved with the intervention of Biju Patanik. Many times, people tried to kill me for my work. But I’m still working to help underprivileged people. My younger brother, Sagami Bimbadhar Mishra also helped in my work.
Now the old age home is 30 years old. We registered it in 1992. At first I named it Jarasram but now changed it to Anandashram.
Apart from this, what are the other social works you do?
Apart from this, we have helped in rehabilitation of more than 1700 child labourers, 2500 HIV AIDS affected patients, orphaned children, and also helped unwed mothers to live their life with their dignity. For these kinds of works, we have formed a caregiver association.
We have also been working for the rehabilitation of sex workers. I had also filed a PIL for seeking insurance for the truck drivers, which they got. We also do climate resilient agriculture. We have created an agricultural production cluster with 15,000 women. Now we are trying to convert 500 villages into smart villages. We have already started our work in 100 villages.
Did you get the support of your family for your work?
My family supported me when I was a child, but after that they tried to force me to concentrate on studies, and advised me not to do all this. And hence, I have not gone to my house for the last 10 years. And secondly in my married life, I have never had to face such difficulties. My husband Satish Samanta and I started it together. He died of a heart attack a month ago. But, he will always be with me in the very step of life. Everything I am today is only because of him.
What kind of facilities are you giving to old people here?
As many as 51 elderly people live here. We provide everything that a body needs in its old age. We give them Care, Safety, Love and Affection. We are providing them Medicare, music therapy, morning walk and yoga facilities. These programs are organized considering the needs and interests of the inmates. We have a doctor to take care of them. The doctor finalizes their food menu according to the health status of the old people, and gives necessary treatment. This doctor checks them up every 15 days. We also have 3 ICU beds and wheelchairs for them. We serve them, thinking of them as our parents.
What are your plans for this old-age home?
In 2015, we introduced a concept grand parenting system.
As we know the grandparents always want their grandchildren near them. We felt that they needed some affection from the children also. So we have started a small English medium school here, where the children stay in a hostel and after school hours, they play games and interact with these inmates. The name of our school and hostel is Sai Anand. It is really making those elderly people happy.
Apart from this, we have 80 vulnerable students, whose parents are alcoholic and very poor. We are providing them free education.