The Karunalaya Social Service Society is situated In the north of Chennai, near the fishing port. Karunalaya (Tamil for 'compassion') was founded by doctor Paul Sunder Singh, a criminologist and lawyer. After studying Criminology he decided not to become a policeman but to work for street children. Meanwhile Sunder Singh has surrounded himself with a large group of social workers and keeps himself busy with more than street children alone. Karunalaya also conducts women's groups and helps 'pavement dwellers', people living at the side of the roads.

Job orientation (traineeships) for runaway boys and girls is our latest project together with Karunalaya. We are planning to build a mini supermarket and maintain it as a workshop for  streetboys and girls of the age of 15-18 years. This supermarket is to be built on the compound of Karunalaya in 2018 or 2019.

This project should cater to the needs of runaway youth and provide a traineeship to those adolescents. When they will have completed their traineeships, they are qualified to work in a shop in town .After that a new batch of youngsters can move into the Karunalaya minimarket. This is a form of social entrepreneurship (people, planet, profit).

5 to 15 streetyouth will have a traineeship each year and learn the profession of shopkeeper, handeling storage, tiller work and accounting. At first they receive theoretical lessons about the job. After finishing their traineeship they will receive a certificate which will help them to find a job on the market. It is agreed that there will be no child labour. No children below 15 years will be involved ( according to Indian law).

The project has several objectieves:

1 By learning a job, the youngsters will be more self confidant ('I am somebody') and take up their rightful place in society. They invest in their future. Mr. Henri Balachandran and mrs. Shailaja are academic qualified volunteers with a professional background in business who will coach the trainees. Bakiyam, the wife of Karunalaya director Paul Sunder Singh ,will  be the shops' manager. They will all work voluntarily.

2 People living in the neighborhood can do their shopping here and get an insight into the life and troubles of street children. They also can see that these street children can build up a new life for themselves. Hopefully they will be less prejudiced and come to a more understanding and acceptance of this youth, formerly living on the streets.

3 After the first year, the shop is supposed to raise some profit that can flow to Karunalaya. That will reduce the dependancy on grants.

4 The shop will also cater for home delivery, a new initative in this neighborhood.

This project requires an investment of 50.598 euro's. Overal Foundation has already given 10.000 euro's, Boeken steunen Mensen (Books4People) has donated 2000 euro's. Amaidhi has reserved 16.776 euro's and Wild Geese Foundation is giving a bonus of 50% on the total amount of money Amaidhi is able to raise. We still need 5.000 euro's to complete the budget! Everyone who wants to support is very welcome!

Street children and working children

Street children, vagabonds, boys and girls who do work that should really be done by adults. In Chennai you find them in great numbers. Karunalaya takes the fate of these children to heart.

Karunalaya's office that also serves as a shelter for street children, is located near the fishing port of Chennai. That is one of the spots that Singh is concentrating on. There are many boys working in the harbor and on the fishing boats, whilst girls earn a meager income in the shrimp peeling. Also many street children just hang around. Karunalaya also has bureaus in various places in Chennai, and in particular train stations. The people who work there try to get the run-away children into the care centre.

Once they are in the centre, after a period od rehabilitaties, staf members try to reconciliate run- away children with their families and strive to change the circumstances which caused them to run away. Karunalaya sims to return the children to their parents as soon as possible. Some children  are unwilling or unable to return. Then they end up staying with Karunalaya longer. They receive non-formal education, classes that make it possible for them to go to a normal school eventually. Karunalaya also offers them a stable daily structure and gives them their own responsibilities, such as washing their own clothes for example.

Amaidhi has linked this project for children to a youth project in Beuningen. The youth who are preparing for their confirmation in the Cornelius church, Johannes xxiii Parish have been raising money since 2000. Each year about 500 schoolbags school bags with contents are purchased with the money. Additional goals are also supported, such as the purchase of school uniforms, clothing and footwear and an educational camp for street children. Two motorized rickshaws were also purchased, and toys and musical instruments. Karunalaya also built a animals shelter. In 2017 the staircase has been painted.

Last years ,more extensive actions have been conducted on behalf of Karunalaya: renewal of means of livelihoods of slum inhabitants after the river flooding in 2016 and restoration of the roofs of the slum Ambednagar after the cyclone in 2017. The help of Wild Geese foundation, besides their contribution to the  Beuningen action with a premium on the annual results, has been and stil is of major importance here.

Already two members of former confirmation classes have traveled to India after their final high school exams. Erik van Oosterhout and Juus van Haren have both lived and worked at Karunalaya’s for several months. Erik was in Chennai in 2010. Juus was there in 2012/2013. Juus has become a member of our board.

Film: A day in the life of a street child.

Women's Groups-Women Empowerment

Karunalya supports women and girls in the slums round the shelter for street children and round the fishing port to stand up for themselves. This is done via the project "Women Empowerment".

Karunalaya forms women-self-help groups and makes women aware of their rights in politics and in their family. Karunalaya also helps conducting lawsuits, preventing child marriages and setting up small cooperatives.

The project has received support for three years, from 2009 to 2011, from the Overal Foundation, thrift store in Nijmegen. Since 2011 a number of the educated women take part in the election of leader in their slum. Up to now, the men were always the self-appointed leaders. But they didn’t really fulfill their role. The women now have the tools to do so. Meanwhile, two women have been chosen in de district council.

Some women's groups from the fishing district have started a rice trade together. This way they get an income to form a financial buffer for the months that their men cannot sail out to sea to fish. They have also created their own source of income, independent of their husbands.

The project continues even after the support of Stichting Overal. The shelter for street children is also in use as a meeting place for the women's groups.

Pavement Dwellers – Living on the streets

Pavement dwellers are people who live in shacks or tents on the roadside. Sometimes they have been living there for several generations. In those cases they have made a tiny cottage from their tent. So tiny that only a few small children can sleep in it. The rest of the family sleeps on the street. That sometimes leads to accidents or robberies.

Karunalaya assists the street people in forming associations, a kind of trade unions that are fight for real homes and more rights. Karunalaya has adopted 25 communities of street people. These are united in ten associations. So far, the Government has not made any commitments that are of any use to the street people. They are offered houses, but only in areas far from the city. Too far from the area where they work as day labourers (coolies).

The pavement dwellers fight for their rights via petitions, lawsuits and protest marches. Stichting Overal has supported this project since 2012 via Amaidhi.
Karunalaya stimulates the children of the pavement dwellers to go to school. They get school bags with educational resources, the same school backpacks as the street children from the shelter of Karunalya get. The money for this is accumulated each year by the children in Beuningen who do their confirmation in the Cornelius Church.


The working area of Karunalaya was the part of Chennai heaviest affected by the Tsunami at the end of 2004. Subsequently Karunalaya started a large number of emergency aid and reconstruction projects. Amaidhi helped to achieve this. You will find more about this in our archives.