“There, but for the grace of God, go I”
As of December 31, 2008, 13 elderly beggar women have been registered with Shantimalai Ashram, authorizing them to receive a monthly pension of 250 rupees (approximately $6 US). They have been issued a photo identification card, which also enables the women to receive free medical treatment at the Ashram hospital. At the time of this writing, the number of women who have been registered has grown to 30.
In addition, social workers at Shantimalai Ashram have been connecting with young widows in nearby villages, in order to integrate them into an existing programs of the Ashram. The programs include a multi-faceted approach, which include on-the-job training at the Shantimalai Women’s Handicraft Shop. Here, young widows receive on-the-job training while learning a skill, and are paid for their work. The goal is for these women to become self-sufficient within the community, independent of the need for additional outside support.
There are provisions whereby they are able to care for their youngest children on-site, while their older children are integrated into existing schools, and provided with all necessary school supplies.