Mumbai: India's first children's hospice caught in controversy

Internal rift in children’s hospice takes ugly turn after funds are raised citing that co-founder left organisation in financial mess

India’s first children’s hospice, Happy Feet Home in Sion, was caught in controversy on Tuesday after a rift between co-founders Mansi Shah and Abhishek Tatiya went public on the fundraising platform that the charity was crowdsourcing contributions on.

File photo of Happy Feet Home, June 2014
File photo of Happy Feet Home, June 2014

A post on online crowdfunding portal, Ketto, stated that Happy Feet Home, located in Sindhi Colony, was in dire need of funds and needed to meet a target of R10 lakh since “one of the co-founders left the organisation, leaving all the finances in a mess”.

A photo of co-founder Mansi Shah, put up by Humans of Bombay, and co-founder Abhishek Tatiya
A photo of co-founder Mansi Shah, put up by Humans of Bombay, and co-founder Abhishek Tatiya

Tatiya, who had departed from the charity last December, clarified on social media that funds were being raised after his exit on false grounds.

Happy Feet Home — which provides free-of-cost emotional and psychosocial help to children who are terminally ill — was started in February 2014, and welcomed as a novel initiative that addressed the need of the hour. It now hosts an average of 10 children daily, and they travel from as far as Bhandup to avail of palliative care.

However, growing differences on the methods of administering care, education and leisure between Shah and Tatiya had led to a rift. Furthermore, Tatiya, who took care of PR and fundraising for the organisation, claimed that Shah, in-charge of operations, had not shared the five-year plan with him. This led to Tatiya’s eventual resignation from the setup.

On Monday night, Facebook page, Humans of Bombay posted a picture of Shah with a detailed caption about Happy Feet’s endeavour, and cited the alleged irresponsible behaviour by Tatiya as reason for raising immediate funds. It was the same case on Ketto, on which Happy Feet has managed to collect R10,53,470 till date.

On Monday night, Tatiya announced on public media: ‘I didn’t leave Happy Feet Home in a mess but [because] the founder Mansi Shah didn’t give her plan of action to me…Absolutely distasteful marketing.’

“Mansi questioned my methods of taking care of the children and I had to quit when things got really out of hand,” said Tatiya. “While I can vouch for the funds being put to the right use, the campaign is based on the wrong reasons,” he added. Tatiya, however, did not approach Shah on reading the campaign’s mission statement and the post by Humans of Bombay. “It is her organisation now; I have no interest in interfering with how she goes about her work,” he clarified.

Shah countered Tatiya, stating, “His claim that he had not received the five-year plan is baseless. He was in charge of fundraising, and was in the know about monthly expenditures. I had asked him to quit several times citing reasons of inefficiency. Instead, he stayed on and then suddenly decided to walk out last month. He was aware that we had the space on rent [Sion] only till the end of this month.”

Shah added that the monthly expenditure for Happy Feet Home, including rent, is about Rs 2 lakh.

“Abhishek and I were brilliant friends, who had got Happy Feet Home up and running,” said Shah. “It is disheartening to see his reaction.”

As the war between
co-founders continues, the children in the hospice carry on with their daily lives. Vinay Kale (name changed), an 18-year-old terminally ill visitor, said he was aware of the fights between ‘Didi’ and ‘Bhaiyya’.

While the co-founders have tried their best to safeguard the children from the dispute, Kale stated, “With [Tatiya] Bhaiyya gone, I feel like there is one member less at Happy Feet. But this is like a family, and such small fights tend to happen in families, right?”

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