Sulochana and her husband Niraj Beru built a shelter home in Pune for children suffering from mental disabilities. The couple formed Beru Matimand Pratishthana after watching their own son suffer because of a broken system.
Sulochana and Niraj Beru first encountered the trials of parenting when their son was diagnosed with an intellectual impairment in 1969.
Sulochana recalls a time when the stigma around mental health was even more intense.
In India, at least 20 million mentally challenged people do not have access to a house or secure shelter. Around 10% of the total are children.
Government-established institutes’ inadequate infrastructure and unsanitary environment fail to meet their needs and provide effective care.
Sulochana claims she attempted to enrol her son in a special education school.
However, the institutes either said no or the administration asked him to leave after a few months, she continues.
“He would frequently destroy his friends’ books, which became an annoyance to teachers and other kids who complained about him,” she recalls.
Sulochana goes on to say that her son’s behaviour has begun to effect his older sibling.
Teachers and others close to her advised her to admit her son to a psychiatric facility.
Admission to a psychiatric hospital, on the other hand, would only serve the purpose for a month.
The 75-year-old claims that there was no place for their son to be rehabilitated.
Sulochana and Niraj decided to open a residential shelter home for their son and other children in Niraj’s spare parts shop near Pune.
after they saw that many parents of children with mental impairments couldn’t afford drugs or basic treatment.
“With five children, including their son, they established a small centre in Alandi, but the children left as the area residents failed to accept our idea,” she recalls.
Sulochana moved to Pune with the children in 1989 to legally establish Beru Matimand Pratishthan, where they leased a bungalow and lived for four years.
“Most of parents were Mumbai residents who wanted us relocate to a suburb of Mumbai, as they were finding it tough to travel frequently to meet their children,”
We needed land between Pune and Mumbai to be more convenient, but we couldn’t afford it.”
Sulochana and Niraj obtained a 20-year lease from the government for a 2.5-acre plot of land in Badlapur in 1995.
She says Niraj also wanted all comfort features for the shelter home.
Sulochana has been running the business on her alone for the past ten years since her spouse died.
Her oldest son ran their Pune store and helped Sulochana with the shelter house when needed.
I’m the sole one running the show, after dad died in 2021.” she explains.
At the moment, the shelter house has over 100 inmates, including 40 orphans adopted by Sulochana. The shelter home has so far served over 500 people.