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banner Saturday, 10 March, 2001, 16:34 GMT
Waugh's Indian fan club
Steve Waugh is a patron of the Udayan children's home
Steve (r) and Mark Waugh meet the Udayan residents
Australian captain Steve Waugh is a campaigner for under-priviledged children in Calcutta. Indian journalist Sandeep Singh reports.

Calcutta holds a special place in Steve Waugh's heart.

'Steveda' (meaning 'elder brother Steve') has his own Indian support base at the Udayan charity home.

It houses 300 children of leprosy patients, 35 km north of the eastern Indian metropolis.

For those children, he has been a messiah of hope.

The Australian captain has been a fund raiser since he first visited the home during his team's 1998 tour of India and has provided a ray of hope for the children, who had been shunned by society.

"We support India but we also back Steveda," quip the boy, who enjoy impromtu tennis-ball net sessions with Waugh, each time he pays a visit.

Their latest opportunity came on Friday and it was again an occasion to remember for the children.

Steve Waugh with Gori Rao
'Steveda' at the girls' wing which he inaugurated

They also bowled to twin brother Mark Waugh, Justin Langer and Brad Haddin - but the only one they failed to dismiss was the skipper himself.

"We'll get him out the next time," the boys cried out in unison.

"After all he's part us. And that's something no one can take away."

Udayan never fails to touch an emotional chord in Steve Waugh's heart.

"It's great to be back and see the kids smiling," said Waugh, who is aiming to win a Test rubber in India, which he consider the 'Last Frontier' for his successful team.

It was an early finish to the 1998 Calcutta Test, which the Aussie lost, that changed the meaning of Steve Waugh's association with India.

Intrigued by the invitation dropped in his room by the charity workers to visit Udayan, he decided to go along since he had a day to spare.

And he was deeply touched by what he saw at the charity which set up by aid from celebrated author Dominique Lapierre.

Royalties from Lapierre's book on Calcutta, 'City of Joy', still continue to trickle into Udayan's funds.

Steve Waugh holding the World Cup
Waugh remembered Udayan after his greatest triumph

"I was moved by the plight of the children of leprosy patients. They too needed a fair chance in life," he said.

The girls at the charity home, Waugh realised, needed urgent assistance since their sparse dwelling unit was in a bad condition.

Agreeing to help, the Aussie captain plunged whole heartedly into the task of raising funds for constructing the girls wing.

He flew into Calcutta again in 1998 to lay the foundation stone for the Nivedita House, which is now home to 50 girl inmates.

The following year, Waugh sent the charity's inmates a cake after leading Australia to the World Cup triumph and he was back in April last year to inaugurate the girls' wing.

Following his lead, brother Mark also sponsors one of the girls but he cannot match the fanfare which accompanies Steve's arrival.

The children have been well and truly bowled over.

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10 Mar 01 |  India v Australia
Hope for the children
09 Mar 01 |  Cricket
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