I have always noticed that people tend to regard the term “Gypsy” as a derogatory one, no matter where in the world and even here in India. The situation is tragic for the gypsy living in Tamil Nadu, especially those suffering from poverty, unemployment, and lack of education and health care. Thus, we are facing a global crisis. On December 17th, AUP students visited the Samugam Foundation and met with Mr. Bruno Savio–the present director of Samugam. The Samugam Foundation is working for the deprived gypsy community along with street children in Pondicherry’s radius. It seeks to provide shelter for approximately 100 disadvantaged children (who are often deemed the “gypsy children”), by providing proper education and extra-curricular activities (such as music, drawing and handicraft works). The latter are assisted and carried on by qualified staff within the organization.
Once we entered the building, the children started to sing an inspiring piece in Tamil, the native language of the region. The happiness that our visit brought them was evident from their warm greeting, playful dancing, and constant laughter. They were as foreign and unfamiliar to us as we were to them. A genuine bond was felt in the atmosphere, along with feelings of happiness and joy. We all believed that these sweet children desperately needed love. Mr. Bruno gave a tour of the building that he called “home,” as a reassurance that the children have a place to belong to. Then, he described the services offered for the children as well as the needs of the organization. They incorporate a number of programs such as JALY Home (Justice Awareness Loyalty for Youth) and SAMUPLAN which both aim to provide a better life for these deprived kids. We had a chance to watch a short film made by the AUP interns from last year, and then received an explanation regarding how the organization works hard to provide a healthy educational and social life for them. What struck me the most was how shocking the process is of removing the children from their initial (and deprived) upbringing.
Mr. Bruno explained how the main goals of Samugam are to provide a better education for the children, to commit to helping the underprivileged, to contribute to the economic development of the oppressed class, and to empower the disabled and marginalized. In short, the organization strives for a better future.
The major challenge of financial maintenance is the main concern for Mr. Bruno; he explained this in detail to us at the end of the presentation. Samugam is dependent on the support of donations given in cash and kinds, whether they be donors, individuals and various local organizations. The obstacle remains that donors usually provide only for fixed costs such as a new facility or necessary equipment. Yet their main challenge is to establish a way to maintain financial sustainability in regards to keeping his foundation running. We left the home with promising thoughts on the practices which Samugam may adopt to overcome these challenges. The tasks will revolve around a sustainable solution for providing better opportunities in life to these wonderful gypsy children.