The young girls flooded the rural villages on the southeastern coast of India.
They had no parents. They lived on the streets and in shacks. There was lice in their hair and parasites ravaging their bodies. In nothing but undergarments, they begged for food. Their futures were bleak: prostitute, servant or death.
Flint radiologist Dr. AppaRao Mukkamala flipped through recent photos of the same orphan girls since they moved into the orphanage he and his wife opened three years ago. They wear uniforms, arms draped around each other smiling and laughing. They read and write in classrooms, play the piano and draw pictures.
| Dr AppaRao Mukkamala
|| Dr. Sumathi Mukkamala of Grand Blanc Township stands with girls she took into the orphanage she founded in India during an independence day celebration in the
parking lot of the orphanage in January
They now dream of being doctors, engineers and leaders in government. “It is so gratifying to see the students who once lived like this to be so hardworking, full of ambition, smiling and making their future,” Mukkamala said, pointing to photos of some of the orphans when they were first found on the streets and didn’t even know the alphabet. “The only limit they have now is their dreams.”
The orphanage near Mukkamala’s impoverished Indian hometown is just one of the reasons the Grand Blanc Township doctor is about to get another local honor as the 2010 recipient of the Distinguished Citizen Award from the Tall Pine Council-Boy Scouts of America at a fundraiser dinner Dec. 22.
“I’m humbled,” said Mukkamala, Hurley’s chairman of radiology, adding “Happiness is in giving, not taking.” The
Mukkamalas, both in their 60s and who moved to Flint to complete their residencies at Hurley Medical Center in 1970, have become well-known for their large-scale humanitarian efforts.
AppaRao Mukkamala is also among a group of 30 colleagues who in 2002 founded NRI Medical College and NRI General and Specialty Hospital in their native state of Andhra
Pradesh. The 750-bed hospital and medical campus employs more than 1,500 workers in the district and sees more than 1,000 outpatients a day, who are treated for everything from anemia to heart disease. The sophisticated, high-tech campus also trains natives to be doctors to help fill a great shortage of medical professionals.
The children from the orphanage are also treated there. Regular trips are made to villages where people who don’t have access to transportation can receive care in a mobile clinic run by the hospital. Most recently, the Mukkamalas also helped open an assisted living facility for senior citizens unable to care for themselves on the same 5-acre campus as the orphanage. The tenants will serve as mentors to the orphans who will help take care of them. AppaRao Mukkamala spends nearly 12 weeks of the year in India, while his wife Dr. Sumathi
Mukkamala, a pediatrician, spends more than half the year there.
The 101 girls who live in the three-year-old orphanage “Chinmaya Vijaya” call the couple “mommy” and “daddy.” The youngest is 6, the oldest 14 and they lost parents from everything imaginable — violent crimes, AIDS, a tsunami. They are sponsored either until they finish college, get married or find employment. “There’s absolutely no difference between them and my own children and grandchildren,” said AppaRao
Mukkamala, the father of two adult children and four grandchildren.
—Courtesy The Flint Journal