A meaningful summer vacation for special children

Updated - May 15, 2024 08:27 am IST

Published - May 14, 2024 07:25 pm IST - Thiruvananthapuram

Various items made by children on display at the summer camp organised by Shradha Charitable Society at Government UPS, Palkulangara.

Various items made by children on display at the summer camp organised by Shradha Charitable Society at Government UPS, Palkulangara.

The summer recess in Kerala has become synonymous with various summer camps where children hone their skills in everything from arts and sports to AI and robotics. But the camp being organised by Shradha Charitable Society at Government U.P. School, Palkulangara, near West Fort, in Thiruvananthapuram is special in many ways.

The camp is organised by a forum of parents for their children who are intellectually challenged. Forty to fifty children of various ages participate every day in the camp. The participants are divided into four groups, each under a teacher and a parent who acts as a shadow teacher.

In one class, 62-year-old Rudraru is arranging shapes. He gets most of them right, but sometimes when he falters, the teacher and her assistant egg him on to complete. With a little assistance, he completes the task and the teacher asks him to identify the shapes. When he correctly identifies one as “vattam” (circle), she tells him to name a couple of things having circular shape. After some hesitation he says “pappadam” and his friends appreciate him with a round of applause while some others name a few things they know.

In another classroom, a group of children are practising a group song, while one among them plays the tabla. “They are practising a song for the cultural programmes in connection with the camp to be held at Priyadarshini Hall, West Fort, on May 26,” says Ajitha, the music teacher.

A group of girls is dancing to popular songs while another one is assembling a huge jigsaw puzzle.

P. Vijayakrishnan, president of the society and centre coordinator, says Shradha has been running the summer camp for 13 years. Each year, the camp adopts a theme and this year it is waste management wherein children are taught the concepts of refuse, recycle and reuse. Various decorative articles are made from plastic bottles and other discarded items.

In 2013, the parents came together to form the society and get it registered. A year later, they formally opened shop in a rented building at West Fort to train the children in various skills and provide them psychological support.

“Programmes of the society, be it involving dance or music, helps inculcate life skills in children. Acquiring artistic skills aside, they also imbibe traits like patience, the need for waiting for their turn, team work and so on,” says Mr. Vijayakrishnan, whose 26-year-old daughter Neelima Krishnan is also part of the camp.

Additionally, Shradha has floated ‘Kshamatha’, an arm of the society where children are given vocational training in association with Central Polytechnic College, Vattiyurkkavu – under the Community Development through Polytechnics scheme. The children are trained in making paper bags, handbags, files, doormats, aprons, umbrellas, and decorative items. The aim is to provide employment skills to the children. Some of the items made by the children are put up for sale as part of the camp.

The camp that began on April 28 is held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. The camp will continue till May 18, and conclude with a cultural programme by the children on May 26.

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