Nikita has Spina Bifida and is 11 years old. She had been a student at Children’s Paradise Preschool, a centre run by Buntty Gurung that assists children with disabilities, from the age of 22 months until recently when her family wanted to give a mainstream school a try. Unfortunately the school wasn’t a great fit for someone with Nikita’s special needs. Nikita has very limited movement and sensation from the waist down, which makes it very hard for her to get around. The only wheelchair she has access to was made for a full grown man, which means she cannot reach the wheels to use it on her own. Due to these issues Nikita needs help throughout the day just to get around.The staff at the mainstream school have not been taught how to assist a student with such disabilities and the students are uneducated on children that are physically different from themselves. This left Nikita in a very sad and awkward position at her new school. Her parents withdrew her from class as they learned of these problems arising. Not sure what to do next with their daughter, they left her at home with a family member to watch television or, when no power, to sit in the sun and to watch her little brother go to school every day. Nikita’s education stopped.Buntty continued to stay in touch with Nikita’s family hoping that she could help them find a solution. Then GVI arrived! Buntty had stated from the start that she’d like our volunteers to work one-on-one with the special needs children at her preschool and she explained what was happening with Nikita. She asked if she could convince Nikita’s parents to bring her back to Children’s Paradise would we work with her. Of course the answer was “Yes! Absolutely yes!”After we’d met with Nikita’s family, and Buntty continued to discuss the options with them, we finally received the amazing news that Nikita would be returning. Her parents have signed her up through a private program that will let her sit her exams and study at her grade. To say Nikita is flourishing would be an understatement. Ady was our first volunteer to begin working one-on-one with Nikita, slowly assessing her levels in subjects, having fun with arts and crafts, and helping her to interact and socialize with others again.Ruth, our Project Manager and a Physiotherapist, has put together a basic exercise plan for Nikita to do with the volunteers to help her work on her upper and lower body strength. Volunteer Adele has now started with Nikita and will take over when Ady leaves. The girls are constantly noticing an improvement with Nikita’s confidence and can see how happy she is to be studying again. The highlight of our visits to the centre is seeing Nikita’s huge smile and her passion for learning. When discussing with Adele what her favourite thing about her project was she replied “Knowing that if it wasn’t for us Nikita wouldn’t be getting an education. It really feels like we’re making a difference.”It’s not only making a difference for Nikita but also for Buntty. She takes in and treats each child as her own and her heart was breaking over Nikita missing out on so much. Now you can’t wipe the smile of Buntty’s face every time Nikita’s name is mentioned.
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