Deepam - a day school for handicapped village children
Deepam offers a daycare with educational activities for children and youth from the surrounding villages who have special needs. Outpatients from villages and from Auroville receive physiotherapy, speech therapy & occupational therapy. If required the children also receive health care, nutrition and appliances. Deepam is located between the Auroville Health Centre and Last School.
In India, an oil lamp with an open flame is called “Deepam”.
Deepam means light or flame.
We chose this symbolic name for our project because we want to bring light into the lives of children who are challenged with disability.
Our project, small in the beginning, started out at an open space in Kuilapalayam village in 1992 as a playground for children affected by disability.
Thanks to donations we could gradually build up a centre where children with special needs receive physio-, occupational-, and speech therapy. We have been able to expand our service to more than 20 of the surrounding villages.
Our children are of all ages. We prefer to work with babies and small children as early intervention is most successful. A few of the patients receiving treatment we know since the beginning of our project and they have since grown into adults and need vocational training.
The disabilities we see are varied: birth disorders, cerebral palsy, hemiplegia, muscular dystrophy, polio, mental retardation, hearing and speech impairment.
Most of our children come from poor families. The social circumstances in the local villages are difficult. There is unemployment, misuse of alcohol and a high percentage of illiteracy. There is no social security system for old age, accident or sickness. It is a big burden for a family to take care of a child who is affected with a disability.
While some of the physically challenged children attend local schools, for the mentally challenged there is no help. Many of them are neglected. We are the only project providing education to the mentally disabled in the surrounding area.
The work with disabled patients is time and personnel intensive and to be effective has to be individually designed for each child. We have been able to build up a stable team of trained and committed persons.
Our approach is multifaceted. Health care and nutrition are very important. Many of our children are undernourished and have poor health. We help for the necessary treatment, medication and supplements, and if required for appliances and surgery. The two healthy snacks and the midday meal which are offered at Deepam are essential for many of our children.
Since 2003 we have a mini bus available to pick up more children and youth from far out villages. For about 25 of them who cannot follow mainstream schooling we offer a day-care programme where they receive basic education according to their abilities. All of them learn to distinguish colours and counting. If possible they learn reading and writing and math. Physical activities, games and play and handicrafts are essential parts. Outings and celebrations are the highlights of the year and contribute to form a group which is a strong social entity and support to each other.
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