The Miracle Blog

Meet Isaac, The Man Who Reunited 166 Children

Isaac often compares himself to Saroo Brierly from the 2016 biographical film Lion. Like Saroo, he was orphaned at an early age. He was placed in St. John’s Boys’ Town Orphanage, Tiruchirappalli, in 1975, where he would stay for nearly 16 years. By the young age of 10, he had lost both of his parents.

He says he was “mocked, bullied, and abused” during his time in the orphanage, but he was determined to focus on his education and improve his circumstances. Despite being encouraged to go into vocational training, his passion and drive led him to earn two Bachelor’s degrees, one in Science and one in Teacher Education.

Inspired by his own upbringing and having worked in the orphanage for six years after completing his higher education, Isaac resolved that he would make things better for children like him. He says he could not think only about himself, so he got to work.

In 1993, Isaac formed the Deva Kiribati Social Help Association (DKSHA) and began raising funds to build his own orphanage (Child Care Institution-CCI). He dedicated all of his time and earnings from his work as a freelancer to this dream.

In 2004, this hard work, dedication, and sacrifice paid off. That year, he was able to open a CCI named Cornerstone Children’s Home. The CCI had humble beginnings, housing only four children at the start, but Isaac’s commitment never wavered. He wanted their experiences to be different from his own, dedicating all of his time and resources to providing the utmost care and support to the children. By 2013, Cornerstone was home to 84 children.

Against All Odds

Miracle Foundation has been working closely with DKSHA Cornerstone since 2013, maintaining an enduring commitment to enhance the quality of care for institutionalized children nationwide. In 2017 and 2018, as Miracle Foundation India was contemplating a shift in strategy from institutional to family-based care, Cornerstone was also moving in the same direction, even though the journey was challenging.

Isaac was initially hesitant to accept some of the changes, as Cornerstone was the best CCI in the Tiruchirappalli district in Tamil Nadu. Some board members and donors even doubted that this type of alternative care was possible. After speaking to the children in his care and doing some soul-searching of his own, however, Isaac became convinced that, whenever possible, Family-Based Alternative Care was the best option.

The change began with three children who expressed a desire to live with their parents. Over time, the organization has blossomed into what it is today, having reintegrated 100% of the children in its care back into their families. The geographic reach expanded to the neighboring district of Dindigul, providing support to the 166 children who had been reintegrated from other Child Care Institutions.

Government officials, teams from across India, other CCIs, and social service organizations keep coming to learn from Cornerstone, hoping to understand how the institution moved from 166 children to no children in full-time institutionalized care. Recently, Cornerstone relinquished its Juvenile Justice Act license to the State Government Authority through the District Authority.

Isaac reflects on this change with confidence, saying, “In India, CCIs ensure only 4 Rights to every Child. But, Miracle Foundation encouraged all CCIs under its care, support, and help to ensure all children enjoy all The 12 Rights of a Child.” inspired by the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Cornerstone has already successfully rehabilitated 143 boys and girls who have settled in life, living a safe, secure, and happy life with their siblings and family members – living parents or with their legal guardians.

Indeed, it’s a powerful transformation as DKSHA’s focus shifted from operating a Child Care Institution (CCI) to becoming a Resource Center dedicated to Family Strengthening and Family-Based Alternative Care.

“We felt so happy, and this encouraged us to work closely with Miracle Foundation India to be successful in implementing the Family Strengthening and Family-Based Alternative Care in two civil districts,” says Isaac regarding their continued success. Miracle Foundation India has been instrumental in providing funding and support for the organization.

Rewriting the Story

When asked whether he has personally witnessed children thriving with their families, Isaac answers with a resounding yes. The biggest change in strategy has been caring for the families as a whole rather than just the children. Follow-ups, need-based care, psychosocial support, and formulating plans with families are all vital pieces in ensuring that the children remain supported throughout their lives.

With support from Cornerstone, children living safely with their families are happier and healthier than ever. They earn top marks in schools and colleges.

“I have witnessed many children thriving with their families,” says Isaac, highlighting the success of Family-Based Alternative Care. His story embodies hard work, determination, and overcoming immense challenges. With support from Miracle Foundation and a commitment to innovative thinking, Isaac is rewriting the narratives of the children, ensuring their futures are brighter than ever.

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