“Here I have been teaching the children various farming skills and also about everything from servant leadership, sacrifice, selflessness, plantation, how to be self-sustainable, organic farming and dignity of labor, trying my best to replicate the ARI model of living.”
Lhingnu’s dream project, which she formed and wrote up at ARI, was to start an orphanage. Upon her return she linked up with the Kuki Women’s Union and opened the Sang Ga Muon Inn (Orphanage), which means “Solace Home” in her native Kuki dialect. Starting with just four girls and four boys the facility now shelters 50 children and has cared for more than 150 throughout its 17 years, catering specifically to children who have lost both parents.
Though registered as a non-profit institution and eligible to receive donations, Lhingnu incorporates activities to make the orphanage at least partially self-sustaining. They grow, process, and sell turmeric, a popular ingredient in Indian dishes, and also operate a rice mill to process rice for the wider community for a fee of Rs. 70 per bag. The rice husk by-product is cooked and used as feed for the institutions 16 pigs. Manure from the pigpen is, in turn, made into bokashi compost and applied to the orphanage’s organic kitchen gardens where they grow a produce such as potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, coriander, turnips, mustard leaves and other local vegetables. These vegetables are enough to provide two nutritious meals a day without having to rely on market products. They also keep a small number of chickens. Ensuring the safety for the children's food by growing organically is of particular importance to Lhingnu. There was a time in the past when she used DDT as a pesticide and even washed children’s hair with it to rid them of lice. However, now she sees how in all our actions, “we are touching all eco-system.”
The children help care for the gardens and livestock as well as learn the techniques of turmeric and rice processing. “Here I have been teaching the children various farming skills,” explains Lhingnu, “and also about everything from servant leadership, sacrifice, selflessness, plantation, how to be self-sustainable, organic farming and dignity of labor, trying my best to replicate the ARI model of living.”
Servant leadership is something especially close to her heart. At ARI she was surprised to see the director take part in cleaning chores, but now as a director herself, she says, “I will be the one who works first,” citing an example of an overfull latrine, “I am the one who opened it and first take it out with the buckets and then the children will follow me.”