How to set up an Indian orphanage

Had you ever thought of building an orphanage for some of those destitute children we see on television? I hadn't. It seemed as far- fetched as setting up my own business. Here's what you don't need: much money, any previous experience, a lot of time, and membership of a vast organisation.

Over the course of six months, while fully employed in an unrelated job and with none of the advantages mentioned above, I built an orphanage for 45 children, housed in two beautiful buildings in the Indian countryside, and cared for by six permanent staff.

So here's how you do it: the most important thing is to find a co-ordinator on the spot - if you cannot return there yourself - who will run the project from the Indian side. There are any number of reliable foreign or local social workers, priests, or benefactors who are more than willing to help with such a project.

You will then need to buy a plot of land (one acre will do and will cost approximately pounds 900), a considerably easier task to achieve in India than in Europe, as legal requirements and paperwork is kept to a minimum. Make sure you re-register the land in your name.

Once you're back in the UK, send an application form to your town hall to register your own association. For obvious reasons, avoid titles such as Save the Starving Little Orphans. I named mine Tamarisk.

Open an account in that name; speak to all around you (you will find you have more family and friends than you believed, and gain more in the process); then run a couple of fund-raising events three months apart, ideally at weekends (a dance, auction of donated art, dinner etc).

People who come will always give happily. Remember, you are only trying to raise what it would cost to buy a second-hand car. During these events ask people to sign pledges of sponsorships for a child from your future orphanage. (I asked for pounds 12 per month, payable on a direct debit system set up by the bank.) Aside from paying for the child's schooling, clothes, food, and the employees who look after him, pounds 12 per child is also enough to cover the monthly upkeep of the orphanage (about pounds 220). So, to run an institution of 45 children you need 20 sponsors.

Don't send all your money at once. Witness the progress of the construction of your home through photographs sent from India. (Donations will flow all the easier as a result of this visual back-up.)

In order to ensure competent and reliable staff, pay them more than the usual local salary, or simply double it for temporary work, which will cost you between pounds 10 and pounds 40 a month (depending on their role).

Unemployment in India is such that your building will be completed within three months and the children will arrive immediately, such is the poverty.

From then on the project will develop almost involuntarily as a connected flow of events.

And, the satisfaction far outweighs the thrill of buying a second- hand car.

YVES NOEL

Yves Noel, Amala Children's Home, Veerarbddykuttam, Palayapatinam, PO Virudhachalam, TK Tamil Nadu 606002, South India

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