This Diwali eve turned out to be memorable for the 45 physically and mentally-challenged children from the Kerala government facility Ambalapuzha Block Resource Centre (BRC) in Alleppey. Along with their parents, relatives and teachers, they were given an incredibly delightful ride over the serene waters of the Vembanad lake in a luxury houseboat Ska, which normally hosts only the well-heeled or guests from the corporate world.
But this group of around 130 merry children and adults, including an MLA, some 25 Rotarians and a few others, managed to get this treat thanks to the generosity of Ska’s owner, Jose Abraham, president of Rotary Club of Alleppey, RID 3211. The children took the ride from Kuttanad, the granary of Kerala, located about 6km from Alleppey, and enjoyed a day of not only music and dance, but also delectable food, prepared by none less than the club president Abraham himself, who is known for his culinary skills!
Since I own a houseboat, I was sure that I wanted to organise a day of fun and joy for handicapped children from disadvantaged families.
— RC Alleppey president, Jose Abraham
The upper deck of Ska, which has a swanky conference room, can house about 250 persons, and for a day trip, the normal charge per person is ₹700, plus taxes. This includes a welcome drink and lunch.
To mark his year as club president, Abraham launched a series of projects, which includes one where the club will be spending ₹1 lakh to give a stipend of ₹2,000 to 50 pensioners. “Since I own a houseboat, I was sure that I wanted to organise a day of fun and joy for handicapped children from disadvantaged families. So we chose the BRC, and invited 45 children, their teachers as well as relatives.”
The waters resonated with the sound of lively music, songs and the children’s joyous laughter, clapping and dancing. As local popular and folk songs were sung to accompanying music, the children started singing and dancing, working up a healthy appetite for the delicious lunch that was in store for them.
The main delicacies in this lunch — fish and chicken — were prepared by Abraham himself, who is “very interested in cooking; I often help my wife, and because the food I make is liked by both my son and daughter, I thought I will cook for these children too,” he smiles.
A 10-year-old boy decided to go up in the front, take the mike from the hand of the folk singer and make his own melody, much to the delight of everyone. He next jumped onto the president’s lap, and as other children started singing and dancing, the Rotarians also joined them and MLA H Salam, joined Abraham, in rendering a full-throated melody.
As the children were caught up in the celebrations, past president of the club Tomi Eapen was told by a mother, “with tears rolling down her cheeks, that this is the first time these children and their parents had stepped into a houseboat and the day’s event was like a fairy tale for them.” He added that in his 52-year Rotary journey, “I have never ever seen such joy and sentiments expressed in any service project.”
In my 52-year Rotary journey, I have never ever seen such joy and sentiments expressed in any service project.
— Past president Tomi Eapen
Abraham was keen to find out what more these children needed. Later he told Rotary News, “I found that there were two 18-year-old girls, whose height was not even 2ft. They found it very difficult to use the toilet available at the centre. So I am now building a specially designed toilet to suit their needs, at a cost of ₹60,000.”
Enthused by the mega success of this event, next he is planning to take a group of senior citizens for a similar joy ride and day of fun on his houseboat.
Eapen added that in the last couple of years their club has started another service for disabled children by offering a learning centre in its building at subsidised rent. Around 30 children are trained here.