Children
 India
Project #10721

Improve Lives of 90 Special Needs Boys in India

by U&I
Vetted

It’s not often that a set of pajamas makes an impact. But in the life of little Hanuman, a set of warm PJs was a pretty big deal. As a resident of the Institute for Mentally Challenged Boys (IMHC), he is one of 90 kids. Often, that means that the government-run institute can’t cope with individual needs of the boys. When a group of kids, including Hanuman, became sick there was little choice but to keep them quarantined. Sleeping on the floor with nothing more than a thin sheet, it was a difficult time for him.

But then U&I staff member at the Home, Anusha, noticed his situation and had the resources at hand to help him out. She picked out a set of warm clothes and gave them to Hanuman. It was a small gesture, but it spoke volumes. She had noticed he was cold. She cared enough to give him the clothes.

“Akka, but tomorrow I won’t get the same clothes, will I?” asked Hanuman. He feared that after U&I staff left for the day, his clothes would get mixed up with the rest of the laundry. He wanted to make sure he got his warm clothes the next day. And Anusha was there the next day, too, to make sure Hanuman got his wish.

It was just a set of old pajamas, possibly donated to the Boys’ Home. But it made a difference that someone cared enough to make sure Hanuman was warm that day.

U&I staff like Anusha give these children a sense of security. Day after day, these kids see these caring “akkas” and “annas” (big sisters and brothers, as the kids refer to them). To these special needs kids who have been abandoned, U&I becomes their family.

U&I works with IMHC to ensure that each of the boys receives the care they need to reach their full potential. Every day our staff at the home nurture and equip these boys: from teaching them basic things like daily hygiene to helping them cope with emotionally challenging situations.

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Dheeraj is a 25-year-old guy. But unlike many his age, he doesn’t pursue a career or have fun-filled weekend plans. In fact, Dheeraj can barely speak or eat. He is one of 85 men at the Social Services Complex – a government-run Home for special needs individuals. Like most of the other men in the Home, Dheeraj has been written off, labelled by society as “hopeless”. Having suffered unspeakable trauma in the past, Dheeraj keeps to himself, barely saying a word, refusing to eat or drink. The staff at the Home are unsure of how long Dheeraj has in his current withdrawn condition.

But, week after week, U&I volunteers come alongside him.

Sometimes, it means just sitting by him with an arm around his shoulder. It means giving Dheeraj the space to open up and share. It means offering him juice. Just a few weeks ago, as our volunteer Yohann sat with him, Dheeraj shared a flurry of words and accepted the juice that was handed to him. We may not reverse the course of his life. But we can offer him company and give him hope. We can give him the space to speak and to show that someone cares enough to sit by him. We may not change the world. But we are changing the world for Dheeraj.  

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Writing the letter A. Many would dismiss that as easy for a teenager. But for Basava and his U&I volunteer teacher Madhuri, it was a special, even groundbreaking, moment.

Basava a spunky, energetic teenager lives at the government-run Institute for Mentally Challenged Boys. He is one of 90 boys at the Home. Basava is known for his never-give-up attitude and his determination to try his hand at new things.

When U&I volunteer Madhuri was assigned to teach Basava she wasn’t sure where to begin. She tentatively gave him paper and pen and held his hand down on the paper. In true Basava style, he gave it his all and enjoyed scribbling on the paper. Over the next few weeks, Madhuri took the next step and guided his hand to write the letter A. They practiced a few times. Many of the As were lopsided and may not have passed muster with an exacting critic. But Basava kept going. He refused to give up till he could do it on his own. And he did. He beamed with pride looking up from a carefully crafted letter to his teacher who had worked patiently with him. 

Madhuri recalls another time when Basava felt this same sense of achievement. After one class Basava managed to put all the pencils back into the box without anyone’s help. It wasn’t an easy task for him – but he kept at it till every pencil was in the right place. 

It’s in these little moments where volunteers like Madhuri stand by the children and encourage them do take steps of their own. 

U&I volunteers invest their time and talent every week at the Home for special needs boys, many of whom have been abandoned by their families. U&I also employs full-time staff and therapists at the Home so children like Basava receive the help and resources to live to their full potential.

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Tejas has been volunteering with U&I at the Government Home for Special Needs Boys for two years now. For his latest assignment Tejas was specifically asked to interact with Vishnu, a young boy in the Home – one of the children with profound development needs.

“I found it difficult to interact with Vishnu as he didn’t respond to me at all,” admits Tejas. But gradually that changed. It took a while but, one day, after trying to work on some motor skills activities with Vishnu, Tejas was rewarded with a warm smile. That evening, when Tejas wrapped up his volunteer time and was set to leave, he felt a hand in his. Vishnu had reached out to shake Tejas’s hand for the first time.

“For others it might sound like a small thing, but for me it was a huge deal. I cannot explain how happy I felt that day,” says Tejas. The next time Tejas visited the Home, Vishnu knew why he was there. He greeted Tejas with a big smile every single time after that. The bond was unmistakable. For Vishnu, who has no interaction with anyone outside the Home, here was someone who came week after week simply to sit by him and play with him.

Vishnu is one of 92 boys at the Government Home abandoned by their families because of their special needs. U&I has worked with the Home for the last five years employing therapists, care givers and staff to ensure that each child has access to care and rehabilitation. Our volunteers interact with the children, developing their social skills and creating a mentoring relationship with them.

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The volunteers and the boys taking a water break!
The volunteers and the boys taking a water break!

On 27th November, children from the Boys Home and the children from Citizen Foundation spent a fun filled day at the Banerghatta Zoo. They were accompanied by employees of VISA.

The day long adventure started off with the children dressing up with a big smile on their faces. The children were extremely happy and incredibly excited for the bus ride. On arriving at the zoo, the children were divided into groups. Each volunteer handled a particular group along with the employees of VISA Company and headed towards the safari. A total of 46 children from the Boys Home spent the day with various animals such as tigers, lions, elephants, deer, bears and others. After the safari, the boys enjoyed their lunch. Post lunch, the kids, volunteers and employees walked around the zoo, after which they enjoyed bars of chocolate.

On being asked about his visit to the zoo, Sujay Gowda, a volunteer from GHM, had to say, “It was an amazing day! Whenever I hear that I have to travel somewhere by bus, I tend to cancel plans. Seeing the kids so happy made me realize how blessed we are. Another highlight from that evening, was when the kids started offering the volunteers seats on the bus. That was truly beautiful”

We often tend to take certain things in life for granted. We forget how even small moments can have a major impact on our life. The visit to Banerghatta Zoo provided the volunteers an opportunity to learn from one another and most importantly, learn from the kids. As for the children, they viewed the world differently and had a great time at the zoo. The smile, the happiness, the contentment and the cheerfulness in their eyes, made it a memorable day. 

The Boys at the Home for the Mentally Challeneged Boys are doing great. They are growing everyday and becoming more independent. Thank you for your support and the role that you play in the meaningful work that U&I is able to accomplish. 

 

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Organization Information

U&I

Location: Bangalore, Karnataka - India
Website: http:/​/​www.uandi.org.in
Project Leader:
Ajit Sivaram
Bangalore, Karnataka India

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