F M R India Asha Niketan Bangalore
Extraordinary circumstances contrived to bring to birth a small community of L’Arche (which we call Asha Niketan) in our land, the home of Mahatma Gandhi. L’Arche was founded by Jean Vanier in 1964 in Trosly Breuil in France. Among the first assistants who joined L’Arche community as early as in May 1965, was a young Indian called Mira. She was a Roman Catholic and a daughter to a Hindu mother and Muslim father. Her father was living in Madras at that time. When he fell very sick, Mira felt torn between her belief that L’Arche was her calling from God and her duty to be with her sick father, and so the need to return to her homeland. This crisis, to use our founder Jean Vanier’s own words, “triggered something”. Could L’Arche begin in India?So Jean Vanier visited India.
Within a week of Jean Vanier’s arrival in Bangalore, L’Arche acquired, on a 30 year lease, a property of size 2 hectares with two wells and buildings. The property belonged to the ‘Social Worker Brotherhood’, a Gandhian social work organization. Volunteers from NIMHANS and St John’s Medical College Hospital, who believed in the vision of Jean Vanier, formed the first Governing Body together with other like-minded people who were similarly inspired by Jean Vanier’s initiative. They established a Society (in April 1970) known as Fellowship with Mentally Retarded (India), FMR-INDIA for short.
Asha Niketan Bangalore in 1970
In the early days, Asha Niketan Bangalore worked the land growing vegetables and mushrooms; looked after a cow and chicken…. and from the beginning, joining in the industrial life of the then small city of Bangalore, through sub contract work of putting together small equipments provided from a nearby factory. In many ways the community felt quite rural being more or less on the outskirts of Bangalore, with few neighbors and little traffic.
After some years of life in community focus shifted to creating a home, with members eating together, working together, and praying together and at sometimes they used to go to different retreats where they could reflect on their personal journey with God. As they are an Inter- religious community they celebrate all the festivals in the community. In early1982 we established a new production unit for candle making and we started to experiment with many creative products in the project.
After a long struggle with regard to acquisition of new land for the community and after protracted discussions on whether to locate the home inside or outside the city,
…….. finally we were able to shift the community in April 2000 to our own beautiful building, which is situated in Koramangala in the heart of the city of Bangalore
Today Asha Niketan Bangalore is a community providing residential and day care services for adults living with mental handicaps and other associated disabilities. It has one residential unit for 13 male adults and 2 female adults with mental handicaps and vocational training facilities for 25adult male and female (age range 86 – 22 years).
Vocational Training/sheltered work – candle making/craft making and horticulture project
The vocational training units/sheltered work are an essential element of the life of Asha Niketan. Work is an integral part of society enabling the exchange of resources, human and material, as well as a place of creativity and relationship. Many of our members have grown up with a negative self image and have been seen as a burden and a problem; they have often been left out of decision making, of creative activities, and having responsibility for themselves and their family. For our members with a disability this opportunity to ‘work’ therefore serves many purposes.
The vocational training includes candle making, loom work, bead work, embroidery, paper craft, bamboo craft and horticulture.
Hope for the coming future
Ageing: We are aware of the reality of our current residential group – that they are ageing and so our desire is to be able to meet their changing needs at home and in their day – time activities.
Outreach programme: We are aware of the difference it can make in the life of a person with a disability to have the dignity of going out to study or work and to have a social network larger than the family has to give time during the day wherein they are free from ongoing care for the disabled family members.
A second community home for adolescent girls/women with mental handicap: This is a long standing dream but right now we have made an alternative arrangement in our existing building to welcome five women with mental handicap.
Asha Niketan Bangalore is situated at No.7, 20th Main, 6th Block Koramangala, Bangalore 560095, and is a registered Society, subject to Section 12a of the Income Tax Act 1961 and has 80G tax exemptions. We need to raise funds to meet our annual running costs as well as funds for new projects and development.
It is the first of the five communities in India, others located in Calcutta, Chennai, Calicut in Kerala and Asansol in West Bengal, Together we are registered as the Fellowship with the Mentally Retarded, India. Asha Niketan Bangalore is also a founding member of the International Federation of L’Arche Communities. Originating in France, L’Arche has now grown to 140 communities located in 36 countries around the world.