I’m recently back from a visit to India where I spent time with several of the projects which Karuna funds. One of the highlights of my trip was visiting ‘Bhalobasha’ a project for children with learning and physical disabilities and their families in rural West Bengal.
Disabled children are extremely marginalised, often misunderstood and mistreated in this part of the world. Parents, who face discrimination because of their children, often lack the financial resources to seek appropriate support or treatment for their child. This means that conditions which are treatable worsen and can become entrenched in children as they grow older.
This project offers a complete package of support under one roof. All children get a full assessment followed by a programme of treatment and support including physiotherapy and speech therapy. Parents are also linked up with local hospitals and are supported to claim financial benefits and aids and equipment for their home. Parents are educated about their child’s condition including learning speech and language therapy that they can do at home. Most importantly of all – children are loved and welcomed here! They are given the message that they are beautiful and valuable and that they are a gift to the world rather than a burden. Mothers and fathers also gain a lot from being around each other and supporting each other. Under these conditions the children flourish and their parents are also able to enjoy their life again.
I spent time talking with parents about their experience of the project and the impact it has had on them and their family. Soumya, who attends with her daughter told me “I was depressed for many years, feeling alone and isolated. Now I feel a sense of progress, and I don’t feel alone any more, my daughter loves it here and so do I.”
What’s truly amazing is that all of this has been made possible by one man, who left a gift to Karuna in his will 5 years ago, enabling the founding of this centre. His kindness has given hundreds of people back their lives and created a place of love, laughter and hope which will hopefully continue for generations to come.
By Akashamitra – Karuna Programme Manager.