By I. J. Saldanha Shet
Mangalore, Dec 15, 2012: Deepavali, Children’s Day and highlights of November are eagerly enjoyed by Children, whatever their circumstances. Children of all kinds sure make the hearts of society glad and capture even the hardest of hearts. Do we at least at times stop to consider the challenged children in distress - be they challenged physically, mentally or otherwise? The way they can steal attention and appeal to the noble human emotions, may surprise anyone. One young girl student here did make history by winning medals in a top notch Skating event recently. Their USP is undoubtedly a divine gift and no human can deny it. Chetana is an amazing “inspiration” - that is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
When children are seen struggling with challenges of one kind or another, and those who are differently abled from the normal, it touches one’s innermost divinity. How will these cope when they advance in age and their own families are no more with them? This is a thought that should cause nightmares - even to the able people who are well equipped and have all their needs provided for. How and who gives these unfortunate kids a basic education and equips them to handle at least basic life skills so that they can get by? How will they contribute to society to gain their own place and self respect? Contributing and supporting such people the last, least and lost is a natural God given duty and must be heeded at least in a small way by all concerned humans.
CHETANA - THE INSPIRING GIFT:
In and around Mangalore there are few institutions set up by magnanimous humane people that can offer admirable degree of facilities to unfortunate children and young adults with Mental Retardation (MR), Cerebral Palsy (CP) Downs Syndrome, Autism Learning Disabilities, Behavior problems, and other developmental challenges that young humans face, plus combinations of these handicaps -multiple challenges. The primary aim in such cases is to train and equip these lovable humans to handle their own basic needs and be self dependent physically in the long-term. This will in a way meet their vital life’s need and dignity. The focus is on maximum independence to face the world as soon as feasible. Well run institutions for these purposes is a boon to challenged people and their families and simply invaluable to describe. CHETANA - Child Development Centre (CDC) is a rare inspiring gift. The state of the art know-how and equipment made available is exemplary, with highly trained, dedicated and compassionate team of care givers; plans to betterment are constantly discussed and resolved, subject to financial viability. The single window comprehensive rehabilitation service encompassing early intervention, skills development or Daily life Activity, Academics, Social Skills, Communication, Mobility and a lot more at least upto pre-vocational levels.
CHETANA CDC- run by Seva Bharathi Trust (Regd) is a unique institution that is in the fore front and worth modelling on - it not only provides service but is also a training Centre for many services to the challenged folk. Situated in Bala Maruthi Vyayama Mandala, a three story secure compact building on VT (Vithoba Temple) Road a stone’s throw from the historical Car Street in the heart of Mangalore, is doing amazing work in this neglected and unattractive field serving the really deserving suffering and little understood or unwanted humanity - the challenged children. Those that serve in this sphere are extraordinary people ordained by the Gods to share in His own task perhaps - their thought is, simple living and high thinking. It surely is the duty of all members of concerned civil society and particularly the well-off to involve themselves. Chetana may be little known even to people in the neighbourhood, but the far reaching mission they accomplish is amazingly divine! However, it is very disappointing to note that Government interest and support is absent. The Governments which talk tall in crores of rupees have not spared something for such a divine cause to benefit the really deserving young. The alleviation of the misery of these suffering, at least to a minimal extent will go a long way in reliving the minds of the parents/guardians and help in the betterment of the human contribution. Most often we see life’s prose while missing it’s poetry.
Chethana has a total number of 69 students and trainees. Twenty per cent of the children are autistic, 15% with Downs Syndrome, 20% Cerebral Palsy and the others are children with multiple disabilities and varied genetic issues, the numbers are bound to change from time to time. The capacity is quite critical but no child is turned away. One see children of all classes, creeds and languages striving together with the dedicated, trained and motivated teachers / staff numbering about 30 who are also specialized care givers; casual volunteers and students of professional colleges too pitch for a time span which is a very welcome and beneficial arrangement for all. Inculcating self-reliance and dignity is the main paradigm of this institution. Chetana very credibly has provided basic, well equipped facilities for Neuro-sensory Development Therapy - Paediatric physiotherapy, Autism and sensory integration, Play Therapy, Hydrotherapy, Speech Therapy, Ball pool, Flexion Disc, Trampolines, Balancing Beam, Wedges, Standing Frames, Respite care and so on. The latest additions are Pulsed Electromagnetic Therapy Machine ( first of it’s kind in this region) Bolster Swing, Tread Mill and a special computer room which serves multipurpose and augments class room performance. Occupational therapy, Vocational skills and life skills to support their life and give individuals some form of livelihood is a vital need for these children and their families. Per say, after the age of 15 or 16 they are given opportunity to learn skills and use them for their own and family wellbeing and so on. Some of the more popular vocational training are screen printing, paper bag making, handicrafts and decorations of different kinds; these are supported by volunteers who are well versed in such skills and is a major area of training and production. A sales counter for these handicrafts is seen at the Reception area. It is wish come true that voluntary teams visit for Speech Therapy & physiotherapy from K.M.C. Mangalore. A team of Homeopathic doctors from Father Mullers Homoeopathic College provide medical support for those who choose. Another team from the Ocean Kids, Dance Academy voluntarily teaches dance to the children - music and dance really are very popular with these children any time!
Seva Bharathi Trust presently has very dynamic and dedicated members as trustees to name some of them: Shri P. Vinod Shenoy, Smt. Sumathi Shenoy, Smt. Savitri Nayak, Dr. Sabitha, Dr. U.V. Shenoy, Dr. G.N. Bhat, Shri. Praveen Kumar, Smt. Neetha N. Shenoy, Smt. Prameela Rao and so on. Speaking for the Trustees Dr U V Shenoy when asked stressed that the God has given us unimaginable gifts and that if we cannot share our blessings for the good of the unfortunate suffering who will? How can we worship a God above and ignore the God before our eyes? It touches the heart.
The staff is dedicated and well trained to say the least, many of them are serving from the very inception though it is s very taxing work requiring a lot of skill, patience, commitment, responsibility and even respect for the students. Dr UV Shenoy adds that though they are often not able to pay the staff on par with Government and comparable institutions, the good will that the teachers and staff have imbibed makes them very accommodating. One lady who is hearing impaired, has been serving for two decades. The trust has plans to enhance a reward system as a mark of gratitude.
A student who is preparing for the SSLC exam. Under special rules he appears for two papers at a time completing the subjects. Students are coached for this system.
One of the early founding group of this institution is Dr.U V Shenoy, a Senior Pediatrician and Professor who has recently retired from KMC Mangalore. He spared some of his valuable time to enlighten this Correspondent. He said the Divine work all commenced with a Vivaha Vedike, ’Marriage Search’ to assist families to marry off their daughters, a major concern in times past. This concerned group and professionals in 1990 when care of Challenged Children was not known, started what was to be a ’Physiotheraphy’ centre for exercise and so on. The place was an abandoned house nearby; later a prominent Devasthana on Car Street leased out the present land to the new Seva Bharathi Trust which constructed the building that now houses ’Chetana’. Most families who had challenged children shut them away from the world and people’s eyes. Neglect not only worsened their condition but also made matters worse for all. Initially, permission was obtained to use the front space at three Government Schools to evaluate and provide care on an ad-hoc basis at three points in Mangalore - Bolar, Attavar and Suratkal, this helped Chetana take shape and enroll the deserving and establish at the present premises primarily.
The vital role played by such institutions to even provide counseling and care at the door step has gone a long way in changing the thinking and allowing care and treatment early. In places like Perla the scourge of Endosulfan has created a pathetic situation where hundreds of challenged children can be seen and the helpless people had no place to turn to. Gradually special institutions have made a change felt but sadly the promises of aid and support from the Governmental agencies do not appear to reach the deserving as yet.
"I complained I had no shoes until I saw someone who had no feet" goes a touching saying. An admirable Complimentary service started as a project to contribute good both ways is the AASARE Day Care Centre for Senior Citizens that started operating in October 2009 and has moved forward steadily to benefit both sides, so far it has been experimental and no formal charges are levied though voluntary contributions in cash or kind and voluntary service is welcomed. The in-house facilities provided are a spacious hall plus essentials, special effects available are : light exercise equipment, reading materials, Indoor games, and day occupation for the elders. They in turn may volunteer to assist in whatever way possible and selected persons with qualified skills are given opportunity to use these in interacting with the challenged children.
Since it has been identified that larger population with disabilities live away from the main stream of the town and cannot travel regularly from outlying areas, a "Mobile Neuro-sensory Development Therapy Unit" is started catering to the out skirts of Mangalore. The Mobile Unit moves out with equipment and trained personnel on fixed days to places like Puttur, Belthangady, Gurupura, BC Road, Surathkal and so on, some of these places are very enthusiastic. The aim is to provide ’Early Intervention (Physio) to high risk children at their door step along with familiarizing the family towards proper care and attention of the disabled child.
Seva Bharathi has come up with tremendous progress with blood donation camps and medical counseling to support Thalassaemia and Hemophilia patients who are found in large numbers in Sullia and surroundings. Though the former Chief Minister belongs to this area , it is unfortunate that neither he nor others have done anything significant to allocate facilities for this important relief work to the suffering in this area.
Seva Bharathi Trust has now taken over the management of "Roman & Catherine Lobo School for the Blind" at Kotekani Road, Kapikad, Bijai, Mangalore. Here Braille education for the visually impaired is provided to Std VII level and also mobility training and support. All this is of course undertaken in the hope that the divine will bring generous assistance from caring humans.
I. J. Saldanha Shet