Man makes dream of assisting others a reality"Religion pure and undefiled before God and Father is this: To give aid to orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself unspotted from this world." James 1:27
When he was a child growing up in southern India, Kruparao Kancharla remembers sharing his pocket money with the poor who (lined) the streets and railroad station in his village.
Now half a world away in Astoria, he's still reaching out to those in need back in his home country.
With his family in India, Kancharla operates an orphanage in the village of Muppalla. The Broughton Orphanage and Residential School serves 54 children, age 5 through 16, who receive housing, food, clothes and a Christian-based education.
The orphanage opened five years ago, and since then a tailoring school and meal program have been added, and Kancharla has plans for a technical training school and a home for the elderly.
Children learn and study in the Broughton Orphanage and Residential School in India, thanks to the caring of Kruparao Kancharla.
"My only purpose is caring for children and people in need," he said.
Kancharla emigrated to the United States in 1989, eventually making his way to Portland, where he found work as a nursing aide. In 1993 a friend told him about a foster home in Astoria that was for sale.
"The first time I saw it I decided to buy it," he said. He now operates two foster homes here.
His desire to help others was sparked at an early age, when he used the money given to him by his parents to buy food for the destitute, including old people who could only crawl on the ground from place to place, and children who picked through dumps for something to eat.
Kancharla himself was the recipient of the benevolence of others - as a child he was sponsored through the Christian Children's Fund by a North Carolina family named Broughton. When he and his family started up the orphanage in India, he asked his former sponsors if he could honor their charity by naming it after them, he said.
Local citizens and churches have given generously to the Muppalla programs, Kancharla said. The Astoria Seventh Day Adventist Church, to which he belongs, and the Lutheran churches of Chinook and Naselle, Wash., have raised money, and individual church members have donated funds and provided other support, including Del and Zephyr Warren and Mike and Diana Rick of Astoria. Monte and Betsy Baumgartner of Seaside gave money to buy sewing machines for the tailoring school, along with other contributions, he said.
During his latest trip in January Kancharla brought with him dozens of hats donated from a collection by Bill Raymer of Naselle. The children were treated to a trip to the beach, the first ever for many of them.
The tailoring school is designed to give some of the villagers, in this case women, some economic independence by teaching them usable and lucrative skills, specifically, clothes-making, Kancharla said.
Rather than buying ready-made outfits, Indians more often buy fabric and have their clothes custom-made. With sewing machines provided by some of his local supporters, Kancharla set up a school where women could master tailoring. The school's first 12 graduates were given their own machines to start up their own businesses.
"When we went back, some had started making money in their own homes," he said.
The meal program began in response to a long drought that's worsened conditions for country's poor. There's little assistance from the government, and few churches have programs to help those in need, he said.
"There is an Indian saying, 'It is the greatest thing to provide a meal,'" he said. "We came up with a plan to feed 100 people a day for a whole year."
The program serves mostly elderly residents, usually a simple meal of rice and lentils but a godsend to people with no other options.
The school also hosts special events, including a free eye clinic that provided glasses and surgeries for local residents.
Not all the children in the orphanage are actual orphans - in some cases they have been temporarily or permanently abandoned by their parents. Sometimes the mother or father, or another relative, will show up at the school to remove the children, often so they can be put to work at the family farm tending cattle or handling some other chore. It's discouraging to see the children's education interrupted that way, but the school has no authority to keep the children, he said.
One boy apparently preferred school. After his mother took him home from Broughton, he ran away - back to the orphanage, Kancharla said.
Christians make up less than 5 percent of the population in the mostly Hindu nation of 1 billion. While their numbers are growing, they still face deep-seated prejudice from many Indians who consider those in the faith to be among society's lowest castes, he said.
In Muppalla, though, such distinctions aren't so important. Kancharla recalls a Muslim man who concluded a prayer at the meal program with "Amen." "He said 'your God is my God.'"
"Our main principal is to love our fellow man - in any religion."