METRO PLUS

Love is the only placebo

Teaching the children to communicate through dance at Bethany

Teaching the children to communicate through dance at Bethany  

This Anonymous quotable quote "Only in a world of love can we unfold and grow" is profound and realistic. And it stands in good stead for the lesser children of God. It is love that ultimately shapes a human being and it is required in abundance for the children who are physically and mentally challenged.

Taking a cue from this, Deborah Bhanoji Row had seeded a mission in her mind decades ago when she was just 13 and studying in a convent school at Shimla. "I had seen the nuns dedicatedly serve the poor and challenged children with lot of love, affection and respect. They discriminated against none. They used only one language, the language of love, to communicate to such children. This experience made me decide what I should do when I grew up," she says.

Today she is the coordinator of the Integrated Education Centre for Special Children (IECSC) that is being run by Bethany Education Society and an NGO, Amodita, which was founded by her.

Amodita in Sanskrit means `Acceptance as it is', and that elucidates the mission of the organisation. Formed 13 years ago with the idea of taking care of mentally challenged children it graduated to impart practical training to the adolescents. "We at Amodita train to make them self-sufficient so that they can take care of themselves to a certain extent and also teach them a few crafts to enable them to make a living in the worst come situations," says Ms. Bhanoji Row.

After completing her post-graduation in psychology from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, she underwent a special education programme with the sole intention of serving the disabled. Coming down to this city she opened a section for the mentally challenged children in Timpany School and later moved on to Bethany with her project. In the meantime she started her organisation to involve the parents in grooming the children. Today she calls Amodita, an association of parents for the mentally challenged, as she believes that unless and until the parents accept and understand the deficiencies of their own children, it would be difficult for the society to reciprocate.

Mentally challenged girls learning various crafts at Amodita.

Mentally challenged girls learning various crafts at Amodita.  

While the centre at Bethany takes care of children suffering from mild and moderate symptoms of autistic behaviour and down syndrome, Amodita caters for such adolescents. "The teachers at Bethany are trained to handle such kids. One should not expect miracles overnight. Such cases need a lot of patience and improvement can be seen only over a period of time. Initially most of them are admitted practically without any speech or basic knowledge of communication but now most of them can read, write and communicate their bare necessities. At Amodita the children are taught to make candles, diyas (clay lamps), greeting cards, woollen mats, embroidery and other small crafts," says she.

It is true one would not be able to tell whether the greeting card is painted by a normal child or a challenged one and the same is the case with a shaped candle. Amodita puts up stalls at various fairs with the sole intention of conveying that such children are no less talented than the others. What is required is a little bit of love and recognition.

Her goal is to see that the children first go through a primary education and basic training module at the Centre in Bethany and slowly graduate to Amodita. But that is not the end of her vision. Ms. Bhanoji Row sincerely believes in the philosophy of love and understanding and she is striving hard to build a permanent home for them. By home she does not mean that stereotype hostel or rehabilitation centre but a home that would look and be like any other home in all set parameters.

"Look not with your eyes but with your understanding and build a home not with bricks and stones but with love and compassion," she quotes. "The main intention to build a home is to look after the children after their parents. Especially I am worried about the grown-up girls who cannot differentiate between the good and the bad and are susceptible to the evils of the world."

Let's join to help them create a better world for the mentally challenged. (For details contact Ms. Deborah Bhanoji Row (Tel: 5623329)

S.B.

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