Saviour of mentally challenged children

Staff Reporter

S. Iyyappan has got global fellowship

A death made him pursue a career as a special educator

To introduce adoption concept for children with special needs

Chennai: While most in his age group dream of a successful career and a comfortable lifestyle, he chose to dedicate his time to rehabilitate destitute mentally challenged children.

From a humble beginning with one such child in 2003, Sri Arunodayam in Kolathur has grown to be designated by the State government as a reception unit to take care of such abandoned children.

Twenty-seven-year-old S. Iyyappan, managing trustee of Sri Arunodayam, has been chosen from India for a Youth Action Net global fellowship provided by the Washington based International Youth Foundation.

“My curiosity to learn more about mentally challenged persons slowly became a conviction to work towards the rehabilitation of such people as there are not many organisations to take care of abandoned children with special needs,” says Mr. Iyyappan.

The death of his 13-year-old brother, who was afflicted with Down’s syndrome, also made him pursue a career as a special educator.

After three years of work, Mr. Iyyappan went on to start a home for the destitute mentally challenged persons.

“Though such children and adults are being increasingly abandoned, there are only few organisations to rehabilitate the destitute mentally challenged. I wanted to bridge the gap and provide a comprehensive residential facility for them,” he says.

Escalating cost, broken families and busy lifestyle have led to increased abandoning of such children, he feels. Sri Arunodayam now has nearly 100 residents.

Mr. Iyyappan says care provided to the residents and transparency in running the home were some of the reasons for Sri Arunodayam being recognised as a reception unit.

“We also try to reunite the children with their families as only home and parents can provide the best environment for such children.”

On the fellowship, he says, “It is offered to young social entrepreneurs aged between 18-29 years, who have made an impact in the community. I was chosen to be one of the 20 persons from various countries….”

Of the 720 applicants from across the globe, eight were from India. Mr. Iyyappan says it is an opportunity to learn about rehabilitation measures and medical care provided to mentally challenged in various countries.

Besides expanding the present facility, he also wants to introduce the adoption concept for children with special needs. “I have confidence that the concept will become a reality soon,” he adds.

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