Monday, October 10, 2011

love conquers all

They say a smile is a much better way of exercising your facial muscles than a frown.

The sixth project that I'll be doing as part of the biggest Community Service program of its kind in Bangalore, I was able to visit The Friendship Foundation this past Saturday.
Tucked away, nestled between a busy railway track and a sprawling apartment block, I had difficulty locating the NGO. They had no signage. I was later told that they did have signage but as innocent victims of haphazard development, nearly all of them were uprooted by the most recent civil construction that happened. The first sign of public apathy and civic shortsightedness.

I was able to spend some quality time with Elizabeth Benjamin, founder of the NGO and mental health Professional.
I got to learn about their philosophy and a little about mental retardation. What amazed me was how the foundation's school is very similar to any other institute you'd stumble across in Karnataka. As a principle, they do not sedate or otherwise medicate children who are unruly, because of the obvious medical side-effects of such techniques.
Though Ashalaya, was founded as a Home for the intellectually challenged thirty years ago, The Friendship Foundation is the brainchild of Elizabeth's daughter who is a qualified Psychologist and mental health Professional, believed the society needed an institution who could foster life skills and quality education to those who cannot afford expensive special schools.
Not an asylum, not a hospital, this Foundation has been doing groundbreaking work in rehabilitating special people (Yes, because that's what they are: Special)

Between kinder-garden and ninth grade, the Foundation has around 200 students. Mainly from families that cannot afford other schools.
Some have gone on to pass their tenth grade and get jobs in the mainstream society.
Take for example, Vignesh, an adorable 12 year old boy. He is the youngest resident and a bundle of activity. Mute, yet vivacious and full of energy, he has been here for close five years now. With an IQ of 53, he has the mental age of a two year old but I was able to see how wonderfully well behaved he was. He was able to comprehend and obey instructions and recognize and recollect pictures off books. We communicated with smiles and pats on the back.

Movies have distorted our collective vision of mental illnesses and people with special needs. While some movies choose to present special people in an unflattering way, most movies are just outright inhumane.

Through the course of the day, I was able to understand how it is so easy to ignore a special person. People who are intellectually challenged are not fussy. They can't fight for their rights. They won't fight you if you jump in front of them in a line. They won't pick up an argument if you are giving them the cold shoulder. While the society extracts its share of practical jokes and pun on 'mental people', the truth is that they suffer in a way that you and I cannot comprehend. I've never had to interact with a special person until last week and I bet most of us would never have had to and that is the reason why our societies view intellectually challenged people in a way that is simply not right.
One of the most important fact I learned was how dementia and mental illnesses have very little in common with retardation. Retardation is not an illness and as the name suggests, is just a sign that neurological development didn't happen at the time it was supposed to happen for various reasons, mostly during pregnancy.

They need all the love that we can give them. They after all not asking for privileges but opportunities to be understood.
I've said this often and I'll say this again - As people who has been created by the same God, in His image, with all the love and tenderly care that only He can think of, they deserve to be treated with equality and love.

In the meanwhile, I'm looking forward to visiting the Foundation in the coming weeks.
I've got a date with God's Special People.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...