India CSR Network
MUMBAI: Caroline Boudreaux is a social entrepreneur and Founder of the Miracle Foundation. Since the organization’s inception in 2000, she has committed herself to empowering orphans to reach their full potential. She is respected as one of the most impactful non-profit leaders in the US and India. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University in Psychology.
Founded as an international adoption agency in 2000, the Miracle Foundation has evolved into a non-profit organization which partners with existing orphanages to empower orphans across the world. Caroline’s ultimate vision is to expand her organization’s work beyond India and bring the plight of orphans to the world’s attention. Because of Caroline’s passion and devotion to the cause, parentless children are growing up in a happy, healthy, loving environment and can look forward to a future that includes vocational training or even a college education.
In conversation with India CSR; Caroline Boudreaux shared Miracle Foundation mission and works for India. Edited Excerpt:
Tell us about the journey of Miracle Foundation in India.
Back in 2000, while visiting rural India, I came face-to-face with an orphan for the very first time.I had been invited to dinner at the home of a local family.
When I arrived, more than 100 beautiful, hungry, smiling, parentless children greeted me.Every single one of them was vying for my attention, sometimes pushing each other out of the way for a hug from me or to touch my hands. They were the sweetest, saddest children I had ever seen. There were so many, and every single one was precious and perfect, desperately in need of love, attention and someone to care.
A little girl named Sheebani came and put her head on my knee. I sang her a lullaby and rocked her to sleep. I went upstairs to put her into her crib, and was shocked to see that there wasn’t one. Instead, the room was filled with hard, wooden-slatted beds.
I gently laid Sheebani down, but when I heard her bones hit the boards, I broke. I couldn’t believe it that any child had to live like this. Here I was, traveling around the world without a care, and these children were going to bed hungry and lonely every night, on hard wooden beds. I was angry, hurt, and embarrassed.
The day was auspicious — it was Mother’s Day. Right at that moment, I decided I had to do something to help parentless children. I simply could not go on with my life as if they didn’t exist. I prayed that others would help me.
The idea for the Miracle Foundation was born that day. Since then — miraculously — people of all ages, from all walks of life, and from all socio-economic backgrounds have joined us on this journey. We’ve developed a systematic, measurable, scalable way to improve the quality of care being given in orphanages, and we’re focused on expanding our capacity-building trainings and support to even more children in need.
According to you, what are the various challenges faced by an NGO in India?
The biggest challenge faced by an NGO is the ability to help enough people. That, of course, is a matter of raising enough money to care for the thousands of children we support. And, the way to do that is to show donors where their rupees are going and the impact they’re having.
Every orphanage we support goes through an intensive vetting process. We do a full financial audit (which we continue to do every quarter), and ensure the leadership is working in the best interest of the children and believes in our child rights-based approach.
Our program is delivered by professionals, with the experience and expertise to work with at-risk youth. We have a team on the ground in India visiting each orphanage we support every month, providing guidance, nudging, encouragement, and caregiver training. We leverage expert trainers to provide life skills education to the children and train the tutors at the homes. In addition, we rely on the expertise of subject matter experts in child rights, attachment, medical care, mental health, education, and governance.
Finally, the measurability of our interventions ensures we know the exact impact of donations, which enables us to provide full transparency and maintain integrity to our donors, whether they give 100 rupees or 100 lakhs.
What are your views on the state of orphanages in India?
Eight million children live in institutional orphanages with deplorable conditions, where their most basic needs are not met. The children are often hungry, scared, confused, and lonely. Even when managed by people with good intentions, orphanages often lack the necessary funds, resources, and knowledge to properly provide for the children in their care.
Providing an operational model for how orphanages can and should be run is revolutionary. Our method based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child changes the game for orphanages—they now have a tool that helps them understand how they’re doing and where they can improve.
Any interesting case studies of any particular kids under the care of Miracle Foundation that you could highlight?
Anbarasi Social Action was founded in 1974 near Didigul, Tamil Nadu. With help from the local community and well wishers, the children’s home functioned with just the bare necessities, with the number of kids living there increasing every day. The children were barely surviving. They received just two meals a day and didn’t have access to clean water. They slept on straw mats on the floor, had ragged clothes and lacked basic healthcare.
Since Anbarasi started working with Miracle Foundation India in May 2012, we have been able to help them make significant improvements. We helped them hire four additional housemothers, a social worker, a supplemental cook and an administrative assistant—all trained well for their jobs. The children began enjoying three nutritious, delicious meals and snacks, including protein and fruit. They received additional clothing and shoes, as well as proper bedding, healthcare and life skills education.
Anbarasi is one of our many homes where 150 beautiful children now thrive. It’s a beautiful example of dedicated people in India, joining together to create miracles for children without parents.
What is Miracle Foundation’s role in developing “better homes” for orphans?
Our goal is to have every orphaned child become a healthy, happy, income-producing person—and break out of the cycle of poverty. There are eight million children living in institutions; every one of them deserves a family.
We work hand-in-hand with the orphanages we support, resettling children who have relatives that can care for them and providing paired funding, training, and capacity building to institutions.
Our approach is based on the United Nations Rights of the Child, and we actively work to ensure children receive their rights, including food, clean water, healthcare, education, guidance from a caring adult, and so on. Once we begin working with an orphanage, the children there experience a transformation. The leaders and caregivers at the home are inspired by the changes they see in the children—and are proud of the changes they see in the home and themselves.
Tell us about your recent association with Global Citizen Festival India.
We were thrilled and honored to be an official nonprofit partner of the first-ever Global Citizen India Festival! It was such a fantastic event. Coldplay, Jay Z, Aamir Khan and all of these other incredible artists were there.
And people could win tickets to the event by raising funds for the children we support on Ketto. Several hundred amazing people created fundraising pages, and together raised a total of INR 7,22,256. The funds raised will be used to fund our education program and scholarships for the orphaned children we support.
How and where do you plan on utilising the funds collected through Global Citizen Festival?
Education is essential for children to grow into happy, healthy, thriving adults. That’s why the work we do in education is so important—and why the funds raised through our partnership with Global Citizen India will be used for education.
The funds raised through our partnership with Global Citizen India will give the children we support: School supplies and uniforms, after-school tutors specializing in English, math, and science, libraries full of books and educational games, career counseling and aptitude testing for children ages 15 and up, computer labs, in which children can develop their technology skills, computer-based English learning software, robotics programs, and scholarships for higher education and vocational training.
The funds raised through our partnership with Global Citizen India will ensure a quality education to orphans, giving them the tools and skills necessary to break out of the cycle of poverty. Talk about a game changer!
What are your future endeavours in India?
We are excited to kick off our partnership with the Government of Maharashtra in January 2017! Since our founding in 2000, we’ve worked on and honed a proven, replicable, repeatable model which improves the quality of care in children’s homes—and now have partnered with the Government of Maharashtra to bring this methodology to orphanages across the state, starting with government-run orphanages.
Any other associations in pipeline?
Yes, we’re exploring partnerships with other state governments and organizations in the orphan care space. One initiative we’re particularly excited about is partnering with organizations doing great work in adoption and foster care. Whenever possible, we resettle children in the orphanages we support to live with their extended family. And if a child doesn’t have extended family who can provide quality care, we ensure the care that child receives in an orphanage is the best possible.
Also, we work on seven of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals issued by the United Nations in 2015. Developing key partnerships with other governments, companies, and organizations working on these Global Goals is a huge focus for us, so we can together make an even bigger impact for the 8 million children living in institutions around the world.
Tell us about your funding model.
Our milestone-based financing of orphanages ensures that the money we send is used correctly (and effectively) before we send more. Every orphanage we support goes through an intensive vetting process. We do a full financial audit—which we continue to do every quarter—and ensure the orphanage leadership is working in the best interest of the children and believes in our child rights-based approach.
Because our model is to support existing orphanages, the funding we provide is gap funding. For example, we know that it costs about Rs. 1600/month to feed a child nutrient-rich meals. If at the time we begin supporting a home their budget allocates Rs. 600/month for food per child, we will provide the Rs. 1000/month gap.
Many generous individuals and companies across India are already giving to the Miracle Foundation, and we invite you to join us in making miracles for children without parents! Your support will change the lives of orphaned children and the communities in which these children live—and we bet it will change your life, too.
The Miracle Foundation model is a three-phase method that raises the standards of existing orphanages. We start by selecting orphanages with a genuine commitment to orphans and their education. Next, we help orphanages help themselves by providing incremental funding to cover gaps in the quality of care. This involves working hand-in-hand with the orphanages during an incubation phase, resettling children who have relatives that can care for them and providing paired funding, training, and capacity building to institutions. We have codified measurement standards based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and actively work with orphanages to implement improvements. Once an orphanage maintains 90%+ goal achievement, they become a Miracle Foundation partner and can count on ongoing support.
Using this approach helps any struggling orphanage measure success, guard against corruption, and report real, tangible, lifesaving results.
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