Blurring borders and making a difference

A team from Santander and the British Heart Foundation working at the Kodathur Village Rehabilitation Centre in Puducherry.(Right)A team from The Body Shop Foundation at the rehabilitation centre —Photos: Special Arrangement  

Brick-by-brick and shoulder-to-shoulder with the local community, 70 people from U.K. and other countries got their hands literally dirty over two weeks in September and October to help build a branch of the Satya Special School at Kodathur village, about an hour from the Puducherry town.

This included employees and volunteers of two teams — one from international bank Santander and the British Heart Foundation and the second from The Body Shop Foundation.

Charity challenge

The project was undertaken through the ‘India Community Challenge’ organised by the Charity Challenge (a fundraising challenge operator) of U.K. With Santander having chosen the British Heart Foundation as their charity of the year, the India Community Challenge was part of this tie-up.

The Body Shop Foundation, which funds small innovative charities across the world, called this the ‘Build India 2015’ challenge and picked Satya School.

The two teams also raised Rs.20 lakh for the Kodathur Village Rehabilitation Centre. They pitched in to complete the inner and compound walls, and did murals on the walls, the playground and garden space of the centre. The British Heart Foundation also held a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training for 20 local people and staff of the school, and distributed CPR kits.

Life-changing experience

“India has always fascinated me, be it the Taj Mahal or Bollywood, so when the project was announced, I was overjoyed. Though I read about the project, I was not sure what to expect. The last five days has been life-changing. We take so much for granted in U.K. and here you see how, with very little resources, the Satya Special School is making a difference. I cannot control my tears as I walk around this beautiful place, full of life, warmth and smile,” said one of the volunteers. The Body Shop Foundation team also included its CEO, Lisa Jackson.

Fern McDonald from British Heart Foundation said, “It has been a great experience. It has been good for employee engagement and team building. The employees also get to experience a different culture and see the project first hand. It leaves a lasting legacy.”

Vikram Dolia, who owns a travel agency, and has coordinated the visits, said the teams were given a chance to experience Puducherry’s art, culture and heritage through special programmes.

Filling a crucial gap

Satya Special School and its branches serve more than 500 children and people with special needs. There are already more than 35 children at the existing centre in Kodathur, and the new centre — once completed by January 2016 — will serve around 100 children. It will fill a crucial gap for care and support to people with special needs, especially in rural areas. The new centre will serve Villupuram, Cuddalore, Gingee, Kallakurichi, Vanur and Mailam, besides Puducherry.

It will have a solar-powered hydrotherapy unit, a physiotherapy unit, a sensory integration unit, an early intervention centre, an occupational therapist and speech therapist on board, and an in-house facility for obtaining and repairing prosthetic aids. It will also have an adult vocational centre providing employment to people with special needs.

This can be a model for centres supporting people with special needs and can be replicated, said Chitra Shah, director, Satya Special School. The project took off with the Rotary Club of Pondicherry Central sponsoring a disabled-friendly toilet. “If not for the Charity Challenge, having a state-of-the-art centre would just have been a dream,” said Ms. Shah.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 5:55:47 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/blurring-borders-and-making-a-difference/article7812587.ece

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