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At DARE They Care
|by Shernaz Wadia|
Continued from Caterpillars To Butterflies
This immediate result in action is very evident in the classes of DARE school for the differently-abled. Initiated by Ms. Dolly Lai with the assistance of ‘Reach’ in Calcutta, the main focus of DARE then was teaching. The school began to operate out of what is the Kurinji outlet at present, in old Munnar town. Today it is located in a new building in the Srishti complex.
We were unable to meet Ms. Neela Guha Thakurta, the principal of the school, as she was indisposed. Ms. Krupa Masoji, Manager, Welfare Institutes, took us on a tour of the well lit classrooms that exude cheer with their colourful charts and beaming children. In the first (Pre-Primary), there were about five students and one teacher seated at each of two low, round tables. Here they are trained in activities of daily living, given skills in self-help, socialising, communication and basic academics. The endearing smiles and enthusiastic welcome of these special needs children were heart-warming. Eager for a little appreciation they showed us their notebooks and a little one even sang something for us. We were intrigued by three mattresses on the floor. “We have some children with cerebral palsy. They are unable to sit, so we let them lie down here while their parents are at work. Here they are taken good care of, easing the burden on the parents”, explained Masoji.
The next two classes were for hearing and speech impaired kids being taught by teachers specially trained in sign language. The medium of instruction is Tamil, their mother-tongue. But education is not the only thing imparted here. Where needed, medical intervention is also taken care of, by Tata Global Beverages, erstwhile Tata Tea. One kid who had a chance to regain partial hearing had a cochlea implant. A visually impaired child is given instruction in Braille, the books having been specially designed for him over here.
Dyslexic and mentally challenged children get Primary-Secondary standard coaching, each child according to individual ability. Those in the age group of sixteen and above get pre-vocational training to facilitate transition to full time vocational training. Dressed in the uniform supplied to them, each child’s neatness and cleanliness spoke eloquently of the basic life skills taught to them by the dedicated teachers. They are also supplied with a nourishing meal at lunch time from a kitchen on the same floor.
Extra -curricular activities like yoga and meditation, physical education, speech therapy, educational trips, counselling (parents and children), tailoring, exhibitions etc. are a regular part of the programme. Emphasis is laid on the overall development of the children enabling some to be rehabilitated in mainstream schools and open employment. Last year DARE hosted an interschool competition where children from other special needs’ schools in the district participated. Competitions were held in dancing, singing, miming, drawing and colouring, hand-writing, painting… Each child was a credit to the trainers and teachers and won the unstinted admiration of all. Hats off to the patience, perseverance and compassion of all who lovingly share their skills and time with these kids!
Strawberry Preserve Unit
The strawberry preserve unit was introduced to ensure self-sufficiency of DARE. With a view to provide a little extra income to the labour in the tea estates, they were encouraged to grow strawberries in their kitchen gardens and sell it to DARE which operated from its own kitchen to start with. The tremendous success and marketing potential of the delicious, pure preserve made from the luscious, farm-fresh strawberries made the unit go professional with a state of the art facility set up in the striking environs of Srishti complex.
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