Desa Amal Jireh (DAJ) is on a mission to provide care and education for the poor, the underprivileged, giving them hope and another opportunity to make it in life.
Over the past 32 years, Desa Amal Jireh has worked tirelessly to give each child the care and love they deserve. Nearly 800 needy and poor children have been helped in their education and today many are doing well.
Founded by Rev. Terrence K. K. Sinnadurai and his wife, Kamala Sinnadurai in 1985, they have nurtured and trained their children to continue this legacy to serve the poor and the destitute, because they believe every child needs love and care for a wholesome development.
Human Asia conducted the following exclusive interview with Kamala Sinnadurai.
What inspired you to start Desa Amal Jireh?
Kamala: Starting this Home was like a fulfillment of a vision of seven years. Because during our courting days, my husband and I felt that we will not have our own children but take poor children and street children and give them care and education.
So after our marriage for six years we planned not to have any children. So when we changed our mind and decided to have at least one child, we accepted a boy of seven who was given to us when I was four months pregnant. After our daughter Shanti was born in 1984, the Home got started in 1985 so it was a joy starting this Home with two children and two staff. We were now a bit ready and confident after having a child and adopting another.
It was the love of God in us that prompted us to give hope for the poor and needy, underprivileged and marginalized in our community. Some children from broken homes were not properly guided, and dropouts from schools with no proper education. So we felt we could help these children without having our own children.
But God had different plans. That we must have our own children first.
What were the major challenges you faced in the beginning?
Kamala: Firstly, it’s from the Church that my husband was pastoring. When we wanted to set up, they were not too keen in starting one because they felt the church would not be able to contribute financially. This was because the church was small and would not be able bear any additional responsibilities. So we postponed the idea.
After a year we negotiated with the church to give us just the building that was unused for free. We did not want any money because we would raise our own. The Church agreed to this suggestion. So we sought friends and other Christians.
Secondly, we did not know where to find the children. After a few months though, a few children started coming into the Home.
How difficult is it to find donors? What do you do to raise funds?
Kamala: We needed to source for funds. We needed RM 800 (USD 200) per month. God was faithful in providing right from the beginning until now. Today our budget is RM 120,000 (USD 30,000).
Initially it was difficult to find donors, because not many knew about us. We had to pray and trust God for funds. Later we realized the public supported us for at least three reasons:
- Our financial accounts are audited by a Public Accounting Company.
- We have tax exempt status.
- My husband and I are volunteers – that means we did not take any salary for the last 33 years.
We are not using the web medium to raise funds as some do. We don’t have the personnel to do that, nor the experience. As such we don’t rely too much on that.
Initially it was the traditional method of “by way of mouth.” Then we distributed our Newsletters to our neighborhood and in the town among the shops and businesses. In this way people came to know about our Home and started to send the funds occasionally. Other methods used were: charity dinners, food fairs, and charity sales. This helped to expand our contacts with more individuals and companies.
How do you find the children to bring into your Home?
Kamala: Our children come from the following sources:
- Recommended by those who know us.
- By churches and other religious organizations.
- Referrals by mothers or relatives of children who are already in the Home.
- Government welfare department.
- Social workers.
Is there any specific success story you would like to share?
Kamala: We have many success stories to share in all these 33 years but for this interview we will share 5 of them.
Paul Yap (Project Engineer), Tinagarani (Executive – Tenancy, Admin, Retail & Assets Management), Jarrod Low (Director), Kevin Low (Director), Somasundra Naidu (Director). They all have a successful career in their company and have made us very proud.
What are the future plans for Desa Amal Jireh?
Kamala: Now the management of the Home is in the hands of the chairman and directors who were the founders. They are helped by a group of seven individuals who have been here from the beginning. Soon we hope to hand over the management to our daughter as the director, where she will be helped by a mixture of both younger and older personnel. There is a succession plan involved.
A few years ago we purchased a piece of land and we hope to develop a soccer field and other sports facilities for the children to use and to generate income.
We also hope to buy a property, a building as a skill Center to help train our Home School children who are at the moment housed in our facility. A skill center that caters to training in electrical, motor mechanics, welding, and plumbing.
We hope to take in teenagers who are dropouts or misfits and motivate them to study or learn a skill and to be responsible citizens.
We want to find out more about Kamala Sinnadurai.
Kamala, please tell us more about yourself.
Kamala: I work here as a full time, a volunteer director for the last 25 years. I am on call 24 hours, even when I am overseas. This job involves dealing with lives of children who need love, care and attention. We have children from the ages of three to 20 years and others are junior staff.
Previous to this I worked as an accountant for 20 years with Dow Chemicals. I don’t currently have any other jobs but I do help out my husband as a Pastor’s wife at the AGAPE COMMUNITY CENTRE CHURCH SEMENYIH where the children and some of the staff attend on Sundays. And this voluntary ministry entails visitation, counselling and solving problems.
Read also : How to Succeed in the Workplace in 2020
What are some of the leadership lessons you’ve learned with regards to your role as the head of a charity?
Kamala: One can’t love or care for another child when one does not know how to love your own child first. Every child is different and must be treated accordingly.
Sacrifice is necessary, though we have every right to our freedom and independence. I can’t travel as much as I would like to but I still enjoy every moment spent in the Home with the children. Sometimes I have to sacrifice my social life with the family or friends because of the needs in the Home which needs my attention.
We don’t take any salary. We don’t want the public to feel that we are doing this charity work as a career or business. All money raised goes to the children’s education, welfare, and daily administration.
In charity work there must be integrity, responsibility, and accountability. Every income must be given a receipt. The accounts must be annually audited by public accountants. The accounts must be open to anyone who wants to inspect or scrutinize. We should not benefit from the charity and we must contribute to the charity.
We must not be the final authority. There must always be a committee to advise us and we must submit to their authority and be accountable to them and the public. We must comply with all government rules and regulations.
Your efforts have changed many lives. How has that changed your own life?
Kamala: It has made us to be committed. We cannot travel or go out as a family as much as we’d like to. We always have to think of the Home and the children here.
These children who come from broken homes are inherently undisciplined, problematic, and disobedient. The moment they know we will not be around for a long period, they will cause some problems. So our trips will have to be for a short period or either one of the family members should stay behind.
Unlike others who have careers of their own, we always have to think of the Home and the children. We are parents to more than one hundred children 24 hours. We not only have to think of finances for our own family, we have to think of this great family’s needs too. RM 120,000 per month. (USD 30,000).
It has helped us to be more patient, caring, compassionate and helpful to these poor needy children, whom, if they had not come here would have faced a bleak and hopeless future. We are comforted to know that in this 33 years we have helped more than 1,000 underprivileged children, many of who are doing well in life.
Any special people you would like to mention who have supported you through this journey?
Kamala: The seven Management Committee people, some of whom have been with us for many years. They attended meetings once every month or two. They are all volunteers. Their wives also helped us in various ways.
My husband, Rev. Terrence Sinnadurai, who is the Chairman and spearheads the fund raising and writes all correspondence and he is also doing it on a voluntary basis. He is the one who comes out with the vision for the Home and for various projects to be undertaken from time to time.
Our children also serve in the Home, though they have a career of their own.
Our adopted son John Letchumanan and his wife Risma though are a great help too.
Our daughter Rachel Shanti is the Volunteer Performance Director and counselor to the girls. She works in a Christian NGO on a full time basis.
Our son Reuben is the volunteer store and stock keeper. He also serves as a friend for the boys and trains them in soccer. His full time job is a professional soccer player.
What advice would you give to people who want to do something similar, starting charity or foundation?
Kamala: Think really hard before you to start. Is it a career, job or calling from God above? You must really have the passion to love another who is not your own.
Don’t start with any wrong motives. Always ensure you are financially accountable at all levels. There will be many challenges and one of them is finding the right staff who share the same passion as the founders. It’s a big responsibility to take care of other peoples’ children. They need our love, care, protection and no abuse or misuse will be condoned.
Thank you, Kamala.
Visit Desa Amal Jireh : http://daj.org.my/