Reaching out to Single Mothers

BY UTTAMA CAITANYA DASA

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KLANG,  MALAYSIA – The Social and Welfare Wing of Malaysia Hindu Sangam (MHS) in collaboration with The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Taman Sentosa, Klang, organised a one-day seminar for some 30-odd single mothers of the Taman Sentosa residency.
This event was held at the ISKCON Taman Sentosa prayer hall at 5.00pm on Saturday, 20 December 2008. Though 30 single mothers were invited, at least 40 came, some bringing their children along. The chief guest-of-honour was Yang Berbahagia Datuk A. Vaithilingam, President of Malaysia Hindu Sangam.
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The Malaysian Indian community has a large number of single mothers, mostly illiterate or semi-literate. And a vast majority of them are from the lower rung of the socio-economic order. Many face severe hardships trying to raise a family being the single breadwinner with meagre income.
As part of its community service, the Social and Welfare Wing of MHS, under the leadership of Mrs Leela Ravindren, organised this inaugural programme in this locality bearing in mind the dire need of single mothers here.  The programme started with the welcome address from ISKCON Kuala Lumpur President, His Grace Uttama Caitanya dasa, who is his message said that though ISKCON is largely a spiritual institution, it also champions social causes for the development and welfare of the society. He mentioned that this is the first time a programme of such nature has been held in Klang Valley by ISKCON in collaboration with MHS.
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Datuk A.Vaithilingam in his keynote address raised concern over raising children in proper manner in some Indian families. He fears poor upbringing will lead to bad behaviour latter on in life. He encouraged this kind of gatherings for single mothers to be held at more places.
The key speaker for the day was Miss Chitra who is an avid social worker, primarily addressing women issues. She has served in Legal aid and other NGOs. She introduced the various opportunities that are available with the government for single mothers, including nursery courses, loans and skills nurturing. She also brought out strongly the point that many Indian single mothers are ignorant of all these facilities and are also overly relying on help to find its own way.  She urged the women to seize the challenge and move on and move up in life. Her candid and down-to-earth presentation was much appreciated by the audience.
During the course of her talk a few women brought up their personal issues and woes and sought help. The co-ordinator of the event, Ms Sheela Muniandy, being a single mother herself, spoke of the trials and tribulations she underwent before reaching a much comfortable state of life as she is experiencing now. She urged women to be determined and steadfast.
At the end of the seminar it was obvious that there so many issues were left to be addressed and a follow-up session is direly required for the women here. In conjunction with Deepavali festival, 30 gift hampers containing food items were presented. At the closing many mothers had one-to-one dialogue with Mrs Leela and Ms Chitra at the closing.
ISKCON played a wonderful host by coordinating the programme smoothly and organizing sumptuous vegetarian meal at the end of the programme. The host also welcomed the women to come regularly to their weekly prayer session for spiritual nurturing.