Thanks to Ketan and TOI for this information
Ketan Tanna I TNN
Mumbai: The incident happened last week. Fifty-one-year-old Bhandup housewife Lata Das was travelling with 27-yearold Chetna and her mother in an autorickshaw on a pothole-riddled suburban road. It was raining and the insides of the vehicle were a little cramped. Suddenly the rickshaw lurched, and Lata, who was near the exit, almost lost her balance. Then, to everyone’s amazement, Chetna put her hand on Lata’s shoulder and held her tight so that she would not fall out.
To those who wonder at the use of the word ‘amazement’, Chetna is mentallychallenged and incapable of carrying out even normal daily functions like taking a bath and using the toilet. It is rare for such people to exhibit emotions.
But that day Lata realised that deep within even the mentally- challenged there are latent sentiments that can surface any time. “I was touched that she cared so much for me. I still can’t get over it,’’ she says.
Chetna may not be able to articulate it, but evidently stores a deep recess of love and gratitude for Lata, a volunteer at the MBA Foundation School in Powai. For over three years, Lata has been volunteering here; she teaches vocational skills to the mentally-challenged, spastics, autistic and even the physicallychallenged.
She teaches thrice a week for three hours and has almost become a family member at the school—so much so that on the day she does not go, the inmates of the school feel incomplete, says Robert Aranha, assistant administrator of the school.
The ‘children’ that Lata cares for are not children in the strict sense. Most of them are grown up and anywhere between 18 and 45 years of age. But most appear much younger. “When I first entered the school I could not believe that some of them were my children’s age,’’ says Lata who has two grown-up sons.
Lata entered the field of voluntary work after her children grew up and she found herself with a lot of time on her hands. She wanted to teach children but with age not on her side, finding a volunteer slot for this was difficult.
She then approached SOSVA, an NGO that places various volunteers across different organisations depending on their skill-sets and the requirements of the job. SOSVA asked her if she was willing to teach the special ‘children’ of the MBA Foundation School at Powai.
Lata said yes. But on her first day, she found herself depressed. “When I saw the children, I was saddened. I wondered why God is so unfair. But then I shrugged off the feeling and got to work,’’ she says. Since then, she has been teaching the kids vocational skills like candle-making; at times she also teaches them meditation, painting and even English-language skills.
The MBA Foundation is an NGO working for integrated care services for persons with disabilities, with two care centres in Chembur and Powai. It was started by the parents and relatives of special children, and currently has 45 children, some of whom are boarders. The idea behind setting up the school was to train the mentally and physically challenged in various vocations and help them earn a living. Fourteen-year-old Krishna is one such child who has a muscular degenerative disease but a razor-sharp mind. “He is the boss of the other children and I have seen him guiding them,’’ says Lata.
Lata’s family has been very supportive of her voluntary work—she regularly chronicles her experiences at the school and emails them to her elder son who is working abroad. As for the future, Lata says she will continue teaching and taking care of the kids till they need her.
New life for 40 kids with heart problems
Bangalore: One-year-old Gautami from Chikmagalur frequently fell ill. Her nails would turn blue and unlike kids of her age, she walked with a limp. She was diagnosed with a heart problem, but doctors refused to operate because it required a huge sum.
Gautami’s father works in a hotel and could not afford the treatment. But he saw hope for his kid after Rotary officials met him and asked him to come to Bangalore. Gautami was recently operated in Manipal Hospital and today, the one-year-old is a healthy kid.
Like Gautami, there were other children with heart problems who were cured with help from welfare bodies. Around 16 children from poor families were operated in Manipal Hospital for free.
Manipal Hospital and Rotary International have joined hands to operate on 40 children of poor families suffering from congenital heart disease. So far, 16 surgeries have been successful.
Some of the children who were operated upon are Mithun (7) from Mangalore, Jaipratap (2) from Salem; Mohammed Shahid (5), who discovered the heart condition from a check up done at school; Manjesh (10), son of a labourer from Shimoga and Hemant (10) from Mandya, who was born with a hole in his heart.
Dr Prasad Krishnan, cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon at Manipal Hospital, who operated on 16 children, said the youngest was a 25-day-old baby. “It was a complicated case of open-heart surgery. With advanced medical technology, a baby’s heart the size of a fist too can be operated upon,” he said.
“Children with heart diseases become blue, are unable to walk and do certain activities. After treatment, a drastic change is seen. All of them can now lead a normal life,” he said. The other paediatric cardiologists who operated on these children are Dr Sreekanth Raghavan and Dr Ravi Narayan.
“Around 1.5 lakh children are born with congenital heart disease in India every year, out of which around 5,000 get treatment mostly with sponsorships and government aid,” Dr Krishnan said.