Alice Thomas, a 55-year-old social worker from Puducherry, has created a ‘wonderland’ of sorts for those children who have nowhere to go.

She runs ‘Udhavi Karangal’, an NGO which works towards the rehabilitation of children who live on the streets. These kids are either from tribal communities or are orphans. Any child who needs a good education and life can find a home here as well.

Alice began her work when she was 21 in 1991 and has since transformed the lives of over 150 children.

She runs a primary school, along with a boys’ and girls’ home. She also runs a girls’ observation home.

Her tryst with social work started as a teenager working in a total literacy programme, where she was in charge of towns and slums.

While she dreamt of becoming a lawyer and helping children, an incident with a young boy led her to her life’s purpose.

“I was sitting at my friend’s house and a boy came begging for food. I told him that I’ll feed and educate you, you don’t need to beg,” Alice recalls.

She took the boy and two of his friends under her wings and welcomed them into her house. She then helped them get a basic education and vocational training.

While she initially enrolled them in schools, she found that she couldn’t help them beyond Class 10 or 12.

To solve this, she built these homes and started her own primary school and bought land. “Today, we are fully-equipped to help them with their post-graduation studies and beyond,” she says.

Her organisation is government-funded, with Alice herself putting in additional funds and other well-wishers who want to help the cause.

Getting children to her homes is a challenge, with many parents refusing to cooperate.

“Some parents take their children to work in brick kilns or for sugarcane cutting. My focus now is on such children. For children whose parents don’t cooperate, we also offer home schooling and make them complete their education through correspondence,” adds Alice.

Such is her dedication to these children that she and her husband decided not to have any kids themselves. They already had 13 when they got married!

Alice’s ‘children’ are now engineers, nurses, paramedical staff, musicians, and social workers. “Their bright future is my biggest victory. They are able to give a good life to the next generation,” she says.