“Visiting DISHA- a place full of smiles” 1/22/11
Today we visited DISHA-Centre for special education and vocational rehabilitation training (a non-profit organization). The centre was founded in 1995 starting with 80 children, and if you are wondering what DISHA means-it simply means direction in Hindi. DISHA serves children with cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation and multiple disabilities. Its mission is to make the child independent and be part of society by obtaining jobs and being self-sufficient.
DISHA opened its own building in 2004, and now is currently serving 2,500 families. This place is disabled friendly- wheel chair ramps are seen anywhere. When I was walking in the hallway, my brain was full of thoughts and feelings. Just seeing the kids smiling and waving at us made feel welcome into their space. At the same time, I was wondering how these children feel about themselves. But they are all a family here and every single child is special.
You are probably thinking that DISHA is like a school. In a sense you are right, but the staff at DISHA prefers it to call it a centre. Children benefit from specialized services such as special education, vocational training, speech therapy and physical therapy. The staff is very talented, and they are all trained in working with disabled kids, especially those with cerebral palsy.
Children attend the centre Monday through Friday from 8:30 to 1:30pm. They receive treatment according to their condition, but they all attend vocational training because that’s the ultimate goal to make them independent and able to function in society.
They get trained in different skills such as cooking, arts & crafts, laundry, etc. I walked into the arts and crafts room, and I saw some of the kids making bracelets. They seemed to be enjoying their work! Lots of colorful beads and beautiful paintings were decorating the wall (all the work they done if for sale). I bought two key chains from the shop. They utilize the money collected from the shop to improve DISHA. I’m so impressed by the work these talented kids do!!
DISHA is a small centre. Only 150 children from every socio-economic status are admitted. The age range is 3-13 years old. One of the goals is to expand the building so more children can benefit from DISHA. However, not all is happiness; there are barriers that do not allow the child to become fully independent. The reality is that some of the parents in India do not accept their child’s condition. Another barrier is opposition to the child’s job because they think that that job is not good enough for their child, and they see their children as kids and not adults. That is one of the main reasons the child ends up not being independent. The sad part is that Indian society has not quite accepted kids with disabilities, and that is one of the main reasons disabled kids are not integrated into “regular schools.” When the teacher said this, I immediately thought about handicapped children in the USA. Back home, our disabled kids are integrated into regular schools, so they can interact and learn from other kids. Also the teachers are well trained to work with disabled kids. The schools back home are disabled friendly, and we are very lucky for that. I hope that India does something similar to this because it would benefit their disabled kids to fit better in their society. In fact that’s another of their goals.
Besides helping the child to develop their potential, parents also are benefited by DISHA. Home management focuses on training and counseling parents in understanding and helping their children. The cost for the child’s treatment is 1200 rupees per month, but about 30% of the students are sponsored because families can not afford the cost.
Because DISHA is an NGO, they do fundraisers and take donations in order to keep helping their children.
I have to recognize and admire the work that the DISHA staff does! They really work hard, and they do utilize every single item they have available (We in America sometimes take things for granted). For example, the teachers of DISHA have a small physiotherapy room with few items, but nobody complains about not having enough. They are very proud of what they have, and they showed us the improvements this center has made for the students. For example, some paralyzed children were able to walk again with the help of a little technology. The environment here is completely holistic. I was incredibly impressed by what little they have, and the major accomplishments they have made. DISHA has been recognized by the state government.
I really enjoyed our visit to DISHA, and I fell in love with some of their quotes. “Never doubt what a handful of people can do.” “Treat the child as a human being and not as a label.”
If you ask me what I learned from this visit and what you can take as the highlight, I would say that I learned to value what I have; make the most use of everything, don’t complain but look what other people have done with so little. I admired the staff and kids at DISHA for their great accomplishments. Remember: if you can help others in need, why not do it now?
By: Karen Lizeth Bastian