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Eleven-year old foster mother - back in school

© UNICEF/India/Pietrasik/2005
Sivarnjini Krishnamurthy, aged 11, provides emotional support to her four younger siblings after the death of their mother in the tsunami on 26 December 2004

By Priyanka Khanna

22 December 2005 – The five Krishnamurthy sisters from Pudupet, in the state of Tamil Nadu, lost their mother in the tsunami that fateful morning on 26 December 2004. 

Their father, though alive and well in Malaysia, does not want to be involved in the upbringing of his daughters. While the sisters are under the guardianship of the staff at a Government-run home in the tsunami-hit Cuddalore district, the psychological burden of providing emotional care falls on the slender shoulders of the eldest 11-year-old Sivaranjini. She has taken on the role of the mother in the family, ensuring that her younger siblings are bathed, dressed, and fed in the mornings.

Sivaranjini has to resolve disputes between her siblings, sometimes handing out “punishment”. She and several of the older girls in the Government-run home attend a local private senior school, their fees paid for by the state.
11-year-old Sivaranjini has taken on the role of the mother in the family, ensuring that her four younger siblings are bathed, dressed, and fed in the mornings.

Sivaranjini’s younger sisters study at the Satya Ammaiyar Memorial Children’s Home and Elementary School, where 372 orphaned children, 22 of whom are from the Government Home for Tsunami Children, are taught and cared for. Most of the children studying at the Satya Ammaiyar Memorial School also live within the school premises.

© UNICEF/India/Pietrasik/2005
Bhanupriya Krishnamurthy, age 8, shares a joke with her sister Sivapriya at a twice-weekly yoga class held on the roof of the Government Home for Tsunami Affected Children in Cuddalore.

When the tsunami brought grief into their household, the emotionally distraught Krishnamurthy sisters began getting into arguments with each other, some of which turned physical. The second oldest, Sivapriya (age 9) and the youngest Jayapriya (age 4) were the most unruly, fighting frequently, each seeking attention and attempting to win favour.  The other two sisters Bhanupriya (age 8) and Anjalakshi (age 6) appear more contained and are able to handle their grief better. Both study hard at school. The close relationship Sivaranjini shares with other girls in the Government Home, gives the 11-year old much needed camaraderie and relief from her position as guardian of the Krishnamurthy family.
When the tsunami brought grief into their household, the emotionally distraught Krishnamurthy sisters began getting into arguments with each other, some of which turned physical.

UNICEF has initiated a tracking system to ensure that all children orphaned by the tsunami are monitored until the age of 18. UNICEF, together with the Tamil Nadu government has also set up village watchdog committees to make certain that tsunami affected children who remain in their community are protected and cared for. UNICEF has provided water and sanitation facilities in the Government Home for Tsunami Children in Cuddalore.

 

 
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