June 8, 2010

QATAR: He's camping here to raise money for abandoned elderly

DOHA, Qatar / Gulf Times / Philanthropy / June 8, 2010

In an age when the number of elderly, abandoned by their families, is on the rise the world over and government-run institutions are unable to care for all of them, it is the turn of charitable organisations to step in. “Gilgal Ashwasa Bhavan, one such establishment, also looks after the destitute and the mentally and physically challenged,” visiting Indian social worker Jomon Johney (pictured) said yesterday.

Founded in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district over a decade ago by philanthropist and community activist Jacob Joseph, Gilgal today caters to 250 individuals, including about 140 mentally ill. “Our individuals are from all religious backgrounds. About 160 are women,” Johney explained about the institution which meets all its expenses through donations from the public.

Some suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, an incurable and degenerative brain disorder that leads to complete memory loss, thus rendering patients incapable of looking after themselves. “We have some individuals who have suicidal tendencies, while others are under palliative care for terminal illnesses,” the social worker said.

A total of 24 staff members care for the inmates, many of whom are abandoned by their families on account of reasons including mental illness. “As of now, we have about 650 applications pending from potential residents,” Johney revealed while hinting at the level of trust Gilgal Ashwasa Bhavan enjoys in the community and among the authorities concerned.

If a proposed expansion project expected to cost about QR500,000 materialises, another 150 individuals can be cared for and a proper dining hall and spacious kitchen constructed. The monthly expenses come to nearly QR25,000, of which over QR4,000 is for medical needs alone. “Although the institution has faced many financial difficulties over the years, support from even total strangers keep us going,” the volunteer added.

Johney is in Qatar until June 26.

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