Kids’ Art Classes at Quality of Life Trust


by Carol Johnson

For the last eight years, the Quality of Life Trust  (“QLT”)has been housing, feeding, and caring for abandoned elders from the villages around Perumpakkam Road in Tiruvannamalai. Abandonment of old people is a big problem in India. The oldest son is supposed to care for his parents. But what if there is no son, or the son is an alcoholic, or has moved away? Then the old people become homeless, depending on handouts to eat.

We have written about this ongoing act of charity by QLT in posts here, here, here, here, and here.

One of the challenges to this effort has been to find an affordable house for the old people to live in. They started in one neighborhood house that became too expensive, and so when the money ran out the elders had to disperse back onto the streets. Then the Trust rented another house and did major renovation work in order to accommodate the group. After two years, the owner of that house took it back, so not only were the elders forced back onto the streets, but the Trust lost all the money (more than Rs 20,000) that was invested in the renovations.

Three weeks ago, the Trust opened another living space for the old people. We were invited to see the newest rental house. It’s shown below.

When we arrived, we were met by three of the old women who had just moved in, as well as about nine children who were visiting. It turns out that these kids were being tutored on Sundays by Ramesh, one of the managers of the Quality of Life Trust.



While Richard and Ramesh looked around the home, Carol stayed and hung out with the kids. She got some photos of everyone, and then gave her camera to the kids to take their own shots. Everyone took turns using the camera.





Ramesh was camera-shy, but someone convinced him to pose with us.


It was a wonderful visit for both Carol and the kids.

Drawing Lessons

On the previous Sunday, Carol had taken her second drawing lesson with Anil Dayanand, a very accomplished artist and art teacher now living in Tiruvannamalai. It was such a joy for Carol to rediscover the fun of looking, really intensely, at some object and trying to capture it on paper. In order to visit QLT’s “new” Old Age Home, she had to miss her Sunday drawing session. But while the kids were having a great time exploring with her camera, Carol realized that the kids could have a wonderful experience of learning drawing. So she engaged Anil to come to the new Quality of Life site to offer an art class to Ramesh’s kids. Ramesh was happy to coordinate the effort. As everyone who has worked with old people knows, having an activity where young kids come into an old age home is beneficial to everyone.

The First Week

The next Sunday, with Anil and his friend Jojo Simons, we were greeted by ten very enthusiastic kids ready to be creative. Anil supplied the group with paper and pencils, and took charge of the “class.” The result was magic.

Anil’s first direction to the kids was to draw their house. Everyone, from the three-year-old to the ten-year-old, hunkered down on the floor to draw.






Here’s JoJo interacting with the class.



One of the youngest members of the group, enthusiastically drawing.


This kid drew his house, and then drew a computer. Anil tried to get him to put the computer IN the house.


More cool houses.



After a juice-and-biscuit break, they got back to work. This time, Anil did a demonstration by drawing the face of one of the girls. Everyone watched intently.



Well, mostly everyone.


Then, Anil asked the kids to draw his face and upper body.


This kid below really “gets” it. He is observing intently, then making his mark on the paper.


JoJo is offering encouragement.


Teacher approves!



One of the older boys in the group did an amazingly good job. He had probably never been challenged to draw someone from life before.


Here’s a close-up of his drawing





Everyone left the session feeling elated by the experience.

The Second Week

A week later, we all met again for the second class. Anil began it by asking the kids to dance. Most were too shy, but a couple girls got up and moved and sang.


After that, Anil asked the kids to draw dancers. Again, it was amazing to us that everyone jumped in enthusiastically.

(photo below by Jojo Simons)




Anil here is working with some of the kids. They had to be prompted to add details, like hands and feet, to their drawings.


(photo below by Jojo Simons)


Some of the older kids wanted a model. So here is Carol in her “dancing pose.”

(photo below by Jojo Simons)


After the juice break, Anil broke out the colored crayons. He distributed pictures of some Hindu gods, and asked the kids to color them.

(photo below by Jojo Simons)

coloring 1

Again they rose to the challenge. Probably they had been exposed to “coloring books” of some kind, so they all knew what to do. The great thing was how they all used the colors so freely. And best of all, some of them completed their drawings by using color on the backgrounds—not always natural with “coloring book” images.



JoJo and Anil observing the scene.


The photo below shows how the kids like to work very closely together.





Pictured below is Raam Kumar, Rajan’s son. He was not part of the group last week, but he somehow found out about the class and wanted to join. He was a little frustrated with the image that he’s holding: He was being too careful with his work, and ran out of time.


This is one of our favorites. Not only was the background colored in completely, but the young artist added his own “design elements” at the top and bottom.


Everyone was excited to go on to the next class, next week.

But “next week’s class” never happened.

Unbelievably, the owner of the house used by QLT for the old people was offered more rental money, twice as much, by some Westerners who wanted to live there during the winter tourist season. So the old people are back on the street again, and QLT continues its search for an appropriate and affordable home for them. Welcome to the realities of India.

Donations are needed

What the Quality of Life Trust really needs is people who are moved by the plight of the “throw-away old people” or by the good work with the children, and want to help. One-time donations are great. What is even better are ongoing donations. Rental of a house needs about Rs 6000 ($100 or 80 Euros) every month. Each old person cared for takes about half of this, Rs 3000 (or $50 or 40 Euros). The art classes also cost about Rs 3000 per month. Right now Carol has been paying for the art classes. Money for the old people is pieced together from various sources, and there is never enough.

And to make matters worse, the Trust has a waiting list of at least 20 more old people who need care, but they cannot afford to provide it. If you can help, send me an email ( and I will let you know how to do so.

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2 Responses to “Kids’ Art Classes at Quality of Life Trust”

  1. anaramana Says:

    so beautiful. thank you for bringing our attention to this.

  2. gaiainaction Says:

    Thanks for your highlighting of these conditions, unfortunate as some of it is. But wonderful to see the work that is being done for the elderly, also for the young ones. Wish I could be of a lot more help.

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