Enabling the disabled in the Nedumangad area of Kerala
Inspired by the success of our special needs centre in Tamil Nadu, Philip Mathew wished to provide something similar in Nedumangad, the nearest large town to Kulappada. He surveyed the area, and found that there were many disabled children who were not receiving the help that they needed because the parents could not afford it. We already had a building in the area which was used some of the time for counselling and some craft production; on the other days we opened it up for disabled children and their parents to come and receive free physiotherapy. A part-time physiotherapist came for three half-days a week. In addition to treating the children, he gave the parents guidance and showed them exercises that they will do with their children during the week. About 30 children were helped in this way.
Akhil (cerebra palsy) on a medicine ball, with our physiotherapist and his mother
The next stage was to expand the services on offer, with acupressure and speech therapy now given freely to disabled children whose parents could not otherwise afford it. We also helped with the cost of transporting the children – many are very severely disabled, and cannot travel by bus, so need an autorickshaw or taxi to bring them. There was also a drink – tea or squash – and a biscuit, making it a convivial place for the parents to meet and support one another.
The centre then moved into larger premises is the village of Kalathara. The building is much better, and allows for disabled access, and Philip took advantage of this to include special needs education. Three special needs teachers and a vocational teacher come each day. Philip found that there were many children who would benefit, but whose disabilities meant that they could not use public transport, so he persuaded one of his relatives, who works in the Gulf, to provide a small minibus to bring the children each day and then to take them back home at the end of the day. Another Indian supporter then gave a second van, which Philip has now swapped for a Land Cruiser which is better able to cope with Indian roads and also carries more children. He also arranges regular meetings with the parents. The resut is a thriving community. There are now about 45 children on the roll, with 30 or so coming each day.
The latest news is that the physiotherapist now comes for three full days a week. The result has been that the children receive even more individual attention, and are making more rapid progress.
This is a relatively recent development – it has been going for just a few years – but we are already seeing real benefits for the children. Those who were unable to do anything except lie helplessly are able to sit up, those who were unable to stand are taking tentative first steps, those who had to be fed now feed themselves, and those who were unable to speak intelligibly are now able to communicate. We have great hopes for the future – and Philip is full of ideas as to how he would like to expand this, if only funds will allow it.
Our latest plans revolve around buying a plot of land and constructing a purpose built building that meets all government guidelines. If there are 50 children, then the school would be eligable for a Government grant which would bring it closer to being self-sustaining. But it will be expensive. A supporter in Australia has pledged to raise $50,000 - about £25,000 - but we will need another £60,000 over four years. Is anyone feeling generous - or know someone who is?