A Visit to Grace Home – Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu
Welcome to Grace Home for Girls in the city of Nagercoil in the state of Tamil Nadu, at the very southern tip of India. It is situated on the grounds of Concordia Lutheran Seminary, and all the school-aged girls attend the Concordia Lutheran High School on the Seminary grounds.
Grace Home draws poor girls, orphans, semi-orphaned and destitute or abandoned children from villages surrounding Nagercoil. Some have experienced the death of one or both parents, some experienced desertion and rejection and some have families who are so poverty-stricken that they are unable to care for their children. Without Bethania Kids’ intervention, possible outcomes may include prostitution, forced begging and labor and various other forms of abusive exploitation. The transition to the disciplined, structured life at Grace Home is sometimes difficult but made easier by the support and encouragement from the other girls who have had similar experiences. With the loving care of the staff and the daily provision of nutritious meals, health care and hygienic living, these girls soon flourish. They are full of energy and fun and also show great respect to the staff and to one another.
Driving through the gates of the compound, you immediately experience a sense of tranquility. The many mature trees, flowering bushes and vegetation are a refreshing reprieve from the heat and noise of the city. You will also notice the playground equipment, laundry hanging out to dry and the girls playing, picking fruit or watering the plants. Visitors are welcomed with an Indian Emblem, which is like a welcome mat.
The home is a two-story U-shaped building with a small courtyard in the middle and open porches facing the courtyard on both levels. The girls’ bedrooms and an office run along the sides with the dining room at the base. The kitchen is located in a separate building in the back, where food is most often cooked on open fire pits. Upstairs are additional bedrooms, as well as the Otten Memorial chapel, a large classroom and a library. Were you to visit, the girls would be very excited to show you around. Their bedrooms, equipped with bunk beds and cubbies, are kept tidy and have a separate single bed for one of the women staff members who sleeps there, too. Although there are sheepish smiles on the faces of those 11-12 year-old girls when you ask how they sleep on their beds that are piled with books and clothes, they admit they prefer keeping their things on the bed and sleeping on the floor mats in the usual Indian tradition. The gardens include tapioca trees, banana trees, mango trees, and jackfruit trees.
Hold the Hand of a Child in Need
A Place of Safety and Love
The girls are Grace Home are a close family. Most of them here come to Grace Home when they were young, some about 4-5 years old, often having experienced something very sad in their lives. It can be a scary experience as the girls miss their families and must get used to new surroundings. However, they are truly loved at Grace Home, and soon they grow in that love.
As the girls grow up at Grace Home, they learn of their rights as women and the importance of education for the future. The leaders of Grace Home since the beginning have been advocates for the rights of women, and they teach the girls to be confident and independent. When the girls reach 18 years of age, they must leave Grace Home (by law), so it is important they are well prepared for life on their own.
Grace Subhia, for whom the home is named, made education and vocational training for women a top priority so they would go into the world with confidence and the resources needed to lead independent lives. The Grace Home girls are excellent models of Ms. Subhia’s philosophy as they continue to win scholarships and awards and go on to become nurses, teachers and accountants. Under the tutelage of the highly educated teachers and tutors on staff, the girls spend many hours studying and take their academic achievements seriously.
The Grace Home was voted the Best Residence Home in the region by the local government. Shown in the photo is Selvi Monikaraj, who was formerly in charge of the home, accepting the award from the regional government official. The overseeing government agencies have used Grace Home as an example of a model facility.
It’s not all seriousness, though. The girls also know how to have fun and play. Visitors are treated to some amazing dance performances by various age groups. Music is also a large part of our lives. The girls make music for themselves as well as in praise of the Lord during devotions and at church services.
Meet the Staff of Grace Home
Grace Home is led by Selva Soraja, who is a counselor by training. Additional staff in the home include Raja Perinbadass, Jeyatakshmi, Muthu Priya, Vijaya Rani, Renjitham, Thresammal, Murugan, Vasantha Kumari, and Jessy Muthammal. The staff at Grace Home have dedicated their lives to the welfare of needy women. They are remarkable in their service and dedication. Since its inception, Grace Home has been known for its emphasis on education and spiritual growth. Many of our staff at Grace Home are degreed teachers.
Meet Jessima and Shalini
Jessima and Shalini Vijayan are examples of the enormous difference Bethania Kids can make in the lives of two young girls. Their father was Christian, and their mother was Muslim. Because of the different faiths of the parents, the two families disapproved of the marriage and continually harassed them. Their father ultimately committed suicide when he could no longer stand the emotional torture from his relatives. Even after his death, the mistreatment continued, driving both girls and their mother out of their home. Jessima and Shalini’s pastor brought them to Grace Home, where they are now fully engaged with their new family and friends and excelling in their studies. The people from their village are so thankful these two abandoned girls found a home at Grace Home.
History of the Grace Home for Girls
Grace Home is named after its founder, Grace Subbiah, a single woman who dedicated her life to the rights and welfare of women in India. She was a member of the Indian Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC). Grace started the Dorcas Tailoring School for women on the grounds of Concordia Lutheran Seminary in Nagercoil. A few years later, she started the home for young women that was named after her.
When Grace died suddenly in 2010, Selvi Monikaraj, who was on the local committee for Grace Home at the time of Grace’s death, stepped quickly into the leadership position. Selvi served for 10 years as the director of Grace Home until she passed away suddenly in 2018. Selvi was known for her loving care, fostering education, a strong spiritual life, and preparing young girls for their life after Grace Home.
Selva Saroja became Director of Grace Home in 2019. Selva had served as a counselor to the girls for many years and was also a member of the Local Committee for Grace Home. She knew all the girls well and was the perfect choice.
The cornerstone of the building recognizes Al, Polly and Bob Hennig, who were also instrumental in starting the home.
How you can help!
- Sponsor a Child at Grace Home for $50 per month or $600 per year, covering all the necessary expenses for one girl.
- Churches or individuals can make gifts to fund the monthly or annual expenses of Grace Home for Girls in Nagercoil.
Hold the Hand of a Child in Need
There are countless ways to participate in this vibrant ministry and share God’s love with the children at Bethania Kids.