The Second World War was over and Europe was a vast sea of devastation. From this sea of devastation, a man rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the blitz that humanity had suffered. This man, a student of medicine, was himself without parents, and he took upon himself the task of saving the orphans of Europe. These destitute, pitiful and helpless children pulled at his heartstrings and he offered them love, security and a home. Thus was born a new era in the care of the orphan child. And the man who offered these children new hope was Dr. Hermann Gmeiner.
Dr Gmeiner felt that though these children were orphans, an orphanage, which was cold and colorless, was not the place for them. They each needed a home, a mother and a family. Only such a home would give them love and security. Only children brought up in such an atmosphere would be citizens who could contribute meaningfully to a post war world.
His struggle to make his dream a reality finally succeeded and thus was born the SOS Children’s Village A golden era in the care of parentless children then began. The orphanage became absolute and the orphan found a home. This, then is Balgram where the orphan child is given not just the basic requirements of living, but a loving hand wipes the tear in his eye, the scars on his psyche are healed by tender care and solace. With time, this manner of taking care of the needy children spread the world over and came to India in 1964. It was in 1974 that the Balgram movement started in Maharashtra.
Anand Balgram (Children’s Village) at Sharadanagar was inaugurated in 1974 with similar objectives. The Balgram to offer the child a surrounding that was both beautiful and natural. There are 12 homes, each of which houses 8-10 children a caring mother. The village thus accommodates 108 children, 12 mothers and a counsellor with the village director.
In-house academic education till the 12th grade is facilitated for every child. After that the children are encouraged and supported to pursue higher education and career. The success stories of Balgram are many, but more important are the realization that each child of Balgram, when he or she grows up, becomes a contributing member of society.
The state provides some monetary assistance. However, this is never enough. What would have happened to the unattended deprived child is a vision too fearful to contemplate. The children are brought up and not just allowed to grow. Cultural and social values are instilled in the child. Every effort is made to obtain a ‘sponsor’ for each child so that the privileged of society can, not only contribute towards, but also reap the joys of philanthropy.