The advent of summer brought on a flurry of graduation and school year end activities. All around me I saw parents and children equally occupied with College graduations, High school graduations, proms and what not. We even celebrated our daughter’s pre-K graduation! As these kids look towards the next phase of their lives with pleasant anticipation, one can’t help but feel thankful for the opportunities that are available to them. At the same time, the thought of millions of children missing out on even the most basic form of education due to poverty, disability or other such conditions is extremely disheartening.
Hopefully the ‘Right to Education act ‘, India’s equivalent of the ‘No child left behind’ act will be a positive step towards mitigating the socio-economic factors that are hindering education of millions of children. For children with disabilities, it’s a whole different ballgame. In the previous edition’s article, we saw how autism affects children and their families. There are millions of families in India that have kids with autism, cerebral palsy, down’s syndrome or some other form of mental disability. Such families need a wholesome support system that includes information, training, day care facilities, special schools etc.
Fortunately a lot of NGOs have been stepping up to help families with autistic and mentally disabled children. Vibha has partnered with some of these NGOs to support programs that focus on mental disabilities, especially in the area of training and rehabilitation. The following sections provide information on these NGOs and the role played by Vibha to support them:
Janmadhyam is an award winning NGO in India that strives to bring people with disability to the mainstream by promoting self-advocacy, mainstream employment, and self-employment through training. To further this goal Janmadhyam has built an Equal Opportunity Technical Training Centre (EORTTC) where children are directly trained at their centers in several “vocational training” courses so that they can be self-sufficient and independent. An example is an Autistic child becoming a productive member of his family and making paper bags for his father’s business. Additionally, Janmadhyam has programs to train teachers, parents and the community at large in order to help disabled children. Janmadhyam also develops multimedia tools that teachers can use to support Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan. (Inclusion of Marginalized and Disabled children). Vibha has been funding these programs to the tune of $13,000 for the past few years.
Shrishti is a Bangalore based academy for mentally challenged children and children with autism. They have a Community Based Program (working with parents, community, awareness generation, etc.) and several direct facilities at their center. Their main center runs programs aimed at training children in activities that promote development and learning of new skills which might not occur naturally due to developmental delay.
For the past few years, Vibha has been supporting a primary school called “Chiguru”, for “Inclusive education” where the mentally challenged children are included in the classroom of normal-abled children. The children are in school from 9 AM to 2 PM and are provided transportation to the school from their villages, as well as breakfast and lunch. The meals address nutritional deficiencies the children face at home. Vibha’s annual budget for this program is about $10,000.
RMKM(Rajasthan Mahila Kalyan Mandal) is another award winning NGO that is actively working towards empowerment of deprived segments of the society, especially women and children for 30 years now. RMKM has also been fostering the rehabilitation of mentally challenged children since 1994. RMKM runs a Day Care Center that provides education and training to mentally challenged children and assists them in performing day-to-day activities independently. As part of the training program, children are taught various trades like tie and dye, making stationery items and preparation of compost from community waste material. They are also provided speech therapy and physiotherapy to enable them to reach their full potential. RMKM also conducts a CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation) program which provides home based intervention facility for those mentally challenged children whose status prevents them from attending the day care center. These children are visited by a specially trained teacher at their homes every fortnight. The CBR workers identify a trainer within the child’s home, and train them in rehabilitation methods. The parents are counseled and the child’s progress is monitored. 32 children have been rehabilitated so far and are working in private shops, services and income-generating activities provided by the Day Care Center. Vibha has been funding RMKM since August 2003 to the extent of $22,000 per year towards the day care and CBR programs. The CBR program was re-launched with Vibha funding after it was closed for lack of funds.
Prayas is an institute working for mentally challenged, physically disabled and socially deprived children. Established in July 1996, approach of Prayas is child centric. They have a team of special educators and trained teachers to impart quality education to children. Along with education, Prayas provides healthcare and nutrition to the children in its school. Since many of the children belong to multiple disability categories, Prayas employs a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, a speech therapist and a child specialist for the children. In order to help these children lead a life of self reliance and dignity, Prayas provides them with vocational training and entrepreneurial skill development training. In the Amargarh School, there are 26 mentally handicapped children and 76 other deprived children. Vibha has been funding this project for the past 4 years at approximately $10,000 per year.
As a result of the efforts of these NGOs many mentally disabled children have been able to care for themselves and lead self sufficient lives. Perhaps someday these children will help other disabled children be self sufficient and will no longer need any NGOs or Vibha to help them! Until that day comes, let’s make a commitment to be there for them and to ensure that no child is really left behind.