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Battling Prejudice, Transwoman Builds Safe Haven for Orphans & Elderly Abandoned on the Streets

Nakshatra was abandoned by her parents when she came out as transgender. She lived on the streets of Bengaluru for months. Today, she provides shelter for those in need. Her NGO, Nammane Summane, houses hundreds, including people with disabilities, elderly individuals, and orphans abandoned by their families. Here's how you can help them with food and shelter.

Battling Prejudice, Transwoman Builds Safe Haven for Orphans & Elderly Abandoned on the Streets

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As a teenager, Nakshatra found herself grappling with uncertain emotions. Confused and questioning her identity, Nakshatra turned to her parents, only to be met with rejection and stigma. 

Reflecting on those challenging times, she expressed, “While I was born a boy, I would feel like a woman. I wasn’t sure how to navigate these emotions, and unfortunately, no one was there to guide me. All I needed at that time was some support,” she recalled in a conversation with The Better India.

A transgender activist and social worker, all she yearned for throughout the better part of her life was acceptance and love.

Now, with her NGO “Nammane Summane”, Nakshatra is creating a home she never had. This non-profit organisation, based in Bengaluru, Karnataka, operates as an all-inclusive shelter home that embraces everyone in need. Nakshatra resides with 150 individuals, including those with disabilities, homeless individuals, abandoned elderly people and orphans.

“I provide them with shelter, food, education, and healthcare. I have nearly 100 volunteers who assist me in reaching out to those in need, offering them a home,” she shares. 

‘Creating a family I did not have’

Born and raised in Bengaluru, Nakshatra’s childhood was marked by a tumultuous mix of rejection and a deep yearning for acceptance.

Nakshatra was abandoned by her family for being a transperson.
Nakshatra was abandoned by her family for being a trans person. Picture credit: Nakshatra

“When I started feeling different from other boys my age, the first people I turned to were my parents. However, I faced rejection and was told to behave in a more acceptable way,” she recalls.

The school environment offered no respite. “I experienced a lot of bullying because of my feminine mannerisms. They would shame me for the way I talked and walked. This constant ridicule made me acutely self-conscious, and the worst part was the hurtful names they called me, making me want to hide my true self,” she explains.

Reflecting on those challenging times, Nakshatra laments, “Those kids were not sensitive enough to understand and accept me as I was. How could I expect anything from them when my own parents could not accept me?”

Forced to adopt a persona that wasn’t hers, Nakshatra began feeling isolated and scared. “I tried to suppress my true self, fearing judgment whenever I attempted to be myself.”

She continues, “But it is only for a limited time that you can suppress your feelings; your true self will always try to come out, and that is what happened.”

Unable to accept that their son was a trans person, Nakshatra’s father sent her away to boarding school.

“When I was with them, I did not feel loved, and as a little child, I was sent to boarding school. I was only in the first standard when I was sent away. I think this was their way of correcting something that was never wrong,” she reflects.

“While they were covering all my needs financially, they never once visited me in school. By the time I finished school and decided to pursue higher education, I realised they wanted nothing to do with me,” she adds.

A Home For All

Her NGO helps provide shelter to homeless people including people with disability, senior citizens, and orphans.
Her NGO helps provide shelter to homeless people including people with disability, senior citizens, and orphans. Picture credit: Nakshatra

“It took me some time to realise that I would never get the love I expected from my parents. The day I accepted that, no matter how difficult it was, I felt liberated,” she admits.

Accepting herself was intertwined with her parents’ acceptance for Nakshatra. “For a child, the most essential thing is the love of their parents, and I did not get that. Once I accepted that I was on my own, life became much better. It was at that point I decided that I wanted to create a home for people like me,” she explains.

She continues, “By ‘people like me’, I mean those who do not have a home to go to.”

At the time, Nakshatra was in college in Tumkur, studying to become a mechanical engineer.

“I decided to come back to Bengaluru and restart my life. I was clearly abandoned by my parents, and I did not have any other place to go. I still remember the day I reached the Kempegowda railway station, feeling lonely but motivated to do something,” she recounts.

With no place to go, Nakshatra lived on the streets for several months. “I know how hard it is to survive on the streets, working odd jobs just to get food in my stomach. This all came to an end when I started to work with an NGO, which helped homeless people like I was back then,” she explains.

Using the money she earned from the NGO, Nakshatra began saving to open her own shelter home one day. “I was determined to do so. I knew it was not going to be easy, and I would need support from people, but I had this urge to do it,” she asserts.

Nakshatra is building a new home for the 150 homeless people living with her.
Nakshatra is building a new home for the 150 homeless people living with her. Picture credit: Nakshatra

With the help of her savings and some members of her community, she gathered enough resources to kickstart her organisation. “I was happy just to start, and I was sure that with the support of the people, the NGO would function,” she states.

Finding a place to establish her shelter home and NGO was also a challenge. “People have prejudices and taboos. They were hesitant to provide me with a place. After searching for many months, I finally found a location in the city,” she recalls.

The behind-the-scenes work for the NGO commenced in 2018, but it officially registered in 2020.

“Nammane Summane is my home and my way of ensuring that no one is left without a place to stay. We began with only 10 people, but then we grew to 80, and now we are a family of 150 people from different castes, creeds, and backgrounds,” she proudly shares.

Discussing how she identifies those in need, she says, “Many people reach out to me on their own. We also collaborate with the local police, who help us find abandoned children and elderly individuals. We have a network of volunteers who are always alert.”

The facility provides for all their needs, including food, shelter, healthcare, and education.

“I initially started with my own funds and some support from my community. While we currently do not receive any government support, we have many generous individuals who continue to assist us with both tangible and financial contributions,” she explains.

How You Can Help – Impact Appeal

As Nakshatra continues her mission to provide a home and support for those in need, your assistance can make a meaningful impact. With a growing number of applications for help every day, the need for resources has never been more crucial. Here are several ways you can contribute to Nakshatra’s cause.

Volunteer Your Time:

Consider dedicating your time by volunteering at the shelter. Your involvement can extend to assisting with daily chores, participating in activities with the residents, and providing essential support.

Financial Contributions:

Your financial support can go a long way in sustaining the shelter’s operations. With numerous mouths to feed and ongoing expenses, every contribution plays a vital role in ensuring the well-being of the residents.

“Every small effort counts and your involvement can contribute to creating a positive impact on the lives of those who have found a home in our shelter,” she says.

(Edited by Padmashree Pande)

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