This is an updated from my recent visit to Akshaya....
The highlight of my India visit this time is visiting Akshaya team and spending a whole morning with them. I noticed that since my last visit about 3 years ago, certain things remained as is: The clean kitchen, fresh vegetables, neatly arranged groceries, menu board, and most important the dedication in serving by the small Akshaya team who remain still shy and modest despite all the spotlights and attention lately. The office has changed from a room in the residence to a two room/, small kitchen dedicated office, and the team has expanded to few more enthusiastic volunteers. Check out the link at the bottom for more photos.
My niece (in-law) and I followed the Akshaya team in distributing lunch. Menu that day was a delicious combination: Vegetable Briyani, Kurma, and Kesari (dessert). I was always curious about the logistics of serving 400 or so homeless mentally ill across the city three times a day and the mystery was solved when I saw this in action. Team knew who they were feeding so intimately and was quickly distributing a really wholesome and liberal helping of the lunch with a tall bottle of clean water and moving on quickly through the busy roads of Madurai. While to most of us passing through these busy streets these people are invisible, but not for Akshaya team who pays special attention and treats them with a kindness to recognize their wandering patterns and have affectionately named them too. We had the pleasure of handing over the food to some: The lady with the comb refused to look at us, but took the food, some had a puzzled look at us, and one refused and cursed me (team assured he would get his dinner and that happens once a while). We separated after a while so we do not slow down the distribution. Later Mr.Narayanan (Krishnan's dad) recounted stories of the mentally ill throwing food on the face, slapping and hitting Mr. Krishnan and his supporters when he just began this charity, and over the period the destitute have bonded and developed a trust with Mr. Krishnan. Dedication and unconditional love would always win.
Later we visited the home Akshaya is building. It is all in the locations. Surrounded by fields and hills the peaceful location will definitely bring soothing recovery to the occupants. Just like Mr.Krishnan chooses high quality ingredients for the food he serves, he is choosing high quality materials be it the marble floors or the wood for the cabinets at this home. All blocks have good views, and the plan includes semi-covered corridors that would link the blocks. An ICU corner, a doctor's clinic and isolation rooms for aggressive patients are in the plan. The single occupant rooms have a very unique design: while they separate the violent patients, the rooms will have a view to a central small garden on one side and the scenic outdoors on the other side. If you were wondering how much of thoughts would have gone in the design, the chief engineer/contractor is a 'stapati' builder of temples and he said he is building this as one other temple itself. With all the recent contributions from patrons, work is progressing with great momentum and I hope more contributions pour in so that this home will be completed soon and provide a safe place for the mentally ill which not only provides them shelter and food, but also medical attention, and some to a road of recovery.
For pictures from this visit, check out:
Most of their friends and some of ours supported the event and we raised a modest amount of funds. Mr. Krishnan promptly sent the receipts for individual donors, and instead of just looking at the numbers beside the dollars he noticed children had given away their meager allowances (the lowes was $2.50 received all in quarters). He instead appreciated the spirit of giving.
I have personally seen the charity in action at Madurai and I bet this is one of a kind, and every dollar directly goes to feeding the mentally ill.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
I have visited Akshaya at Madurai. I have seen the kitchen, the cleanliness, professionalism, and the fresh ingradients that go into the delicious meals. I have followed the Akshaya van and watched how the team spots wandering mentally ill with ease, know intimately about each, and also the trust that the mentally ill show for them. This does not come easily from the mentally ill, and it says volume of the regular and sincere work by the team in genuinely caring for them.
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
I would change nothing. They have a well defined focus, and are striving day in and out caring for the homeless mentally ill at Madurai. I wish organic growth of this organization, spreading the mission to other cities, at appropriate time.
Would you volunteer for this group again?
For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?
Did the organization use your time wisely?
Would you recommend this group to a friend?
Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)
I found volunteers with the same spirit. I hope I continue their friendship.
How did this volunteer experience make you feel?
Very satisfied in being part of, despite very small, a very good cause.
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?