Jo McGowan Chopra: Creating a perfect world for the lesser children of god

Anurag, just 5, ran after the sparkling, duck shaped cart sliding smoothly on the spotlessly clean floor. The cart rolled down a few feet before he could catch and sit on it. As he started ‘driving,’ Kusboo, an older girl, stood in front of him, holding a toy in her left hand. Suddenly, Tsering, a much older girl, came and snatched the toy from Kushboo’s hand as she was annoyed at her obstructing Anurag’s march. Kusboo got the message and said sorry; clearing the obstacle. Tsering returned the toy and all three dashed out to the play area on the enclosed veranda – where outdoor swings and climbing equipment were available.

These three special needs children were with ten other such kids and were having a great time at Gubbara, meaning balloon in Hindi, a new state-of-the-art diagnostic centre for children with multiple disabilities in Dehradun.

Early Intervention and Assessment Centres, though far and few, do exist in different cities around the country. Gubbara is unique in being situated in a government hospital and run as a Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the Latika Roy Foundation, a voluntary organization devoted to children with special needs, and the Government of Uttarakhand.

Gubbara is just one of many projects the Latika Roy Foundation runs for children with special needs in the city. Early intervention is a cornerstone of its philosophy: the sooner children with disability are identified and receive therapy and education, the better they will do.

A brainchild of Jo McGowan Chopra, an American by birth and a former criminal, yes a formal criminal as she had been arrested many times in the USA as a peace movement organiser.

Gubbara is the model of public-private partnership that has made successful early intervention in the lives of special kids since April, 2011, and has a spacious, beautifully designed and full of state-of-the-art equipment and brightly-coloured toys in Doon Hospital, otherwise drab and staid government city hospital.

Today, it gives a slice of happy and colourful life to hundreds of special children.

As most parents of such hapless children are very poor and cannot afford transport and stay in Dehradun, LRF provides them transport and makes their staying arrangements at a local dharamsala (charity inns). “This place should be better publicised in the remote, rural areas so that people from the hills, where no such facility exists, can also benefit,” says Pushpa, mother of Amar Chauhan, a 3-year old boy who was being assessed at the centre.

This balloon is really flying in the horizon hundreds of children with special needs in Uttarakhand who are learning to walk, talk and – perhaps – even fly.

Gubbara, along with six other initiatives of LRF has changed lives.

Thousands of less fortunate lives!

Born in 1958 in a small town, Fall River, Bristol CountyMassachusetts, United States, Jo has been a rebel with a cause and that cause is to make this world a better, more liveable place for the children of the lesser god and her parents were the real role-models for her as she has got the brainwave of caring for the disadvantages and marginalized and fighting for their rights and a just world from them. They wouldn’t not only participate themselves in such activities, but also encourage her to do the same.

They were staunch Catholics and wanted to make this world a better place. Fight for a just cause and indulge in strong social actions. She was the oldest of seven siblings. Despite of having a large family, her parents were always active in social services like taking care of elderlies and, “Even in their seventies, they would cook and pack cake and cookies to feed the old people who were often only, as if they weren’t old,” laughs Jo.

In 1978,  when she was in Massachusetts State University, she went on a protest march from Boston to Washington, against nuclear arms and demanding disarmaments, putting her study at the backburner.

Ravi was also on a protest march, but from a different direction, we collided and became life-partners in 1979,” she laughs.

That’s how she landed in India and that’s too, in Dehradun.

She got involved in yet another protest in 1978 and was arrested. In democratic America, she was arrested ten times during a four-year period; from 1976 to 1979, to beseech the cause of democracy: on charges of blocking an entrance, unlawful assembly, and trespassing.

Life wasn’t easy for the newly-wed couple after they came to India and started living in Delhi in 1982. Having no regular and steady job, she would write occasionally for Span magazine, the PR organ of the US government in India. “My first article was on cooking American food in an Indian kitchen. Avinash Pasricha, an ace photographer, shot excellent photos and the images he created were so amazing my little fluff piece ended up being the magazine’s main feature, and I there with my homemade bread on the cover,” she recalls.

The money that she got from the magazine, kept her hearth burning for a few days as they were not a typical American ex-pat, living in a fancy house with a large staff and fabulous table linens, housewares and furnishings, but lived in a two-room flat in a lower middle-class neighbourhood and, “If we had guests over, we had to go and buy ice because we didn’t even have a fridge,” she adds.

Avinash, one of India’s most renowned photographers, famous for his chronicling of dancers and musicians, became her friend for life and came to Dehradun very often after she had started Karuna Vihar and shot its calendar as, “He took photos of our children that illustrated their charm, wit and adorableness. He captured our staff in their moments of creativity, style and beauty. Year after year, Avinash got it,” she extols her long-lasting friend who keeps visiting them, even when he is 84, “Not as quick on his feet and he can’t lug the heavy equipment he used to hoist with ease. His eye is as sharp as ever, though, and his understanding of disability is more profound. And my appreciation for his art and his grace has only deepened,” she adds.

Jo never liked living in Delhi with its bourgeoning population, imploding amenities and compounding pollution and wanted to live in a quiet, peaceful and smaller city, especially after her two children: Anand and Cathleen, were born, “I chose Doon as it still had trees and places the kids could ride bicycles. I never wanted to bring them up in a huge city like Delhi,” she tells.

So, they finally shift to Dehradun in 1988, seven years after they landed here, in India and it was a deal between the two, “I had told Ravi he had chosen the country so I was choosing the city and I chose Dehradun,” she adds.

Little did she know that shifting to Doon was going to soon change her life forever and give her a sense, a goal, a destiny of living.

That was the entry of Moy Moy the very next year!

Moy Moy is from a remote village in the Himalayas. Her mother had been sterilized after her 12th baby – but Moy Moy was conceived anyway. Determined to get an abortion, she came down to Dehradun – and chose the one obstetrician in the city who doesn’t do them. The doctor persuaded Moy’s mother to give birth and leave the baby for her to find it a home – a few months later, coming for a routine prenatal appointment, she went into labour on the bus. The bus pulled over and Moy Moy was born on the side of the road, 12 weeks premature, weighing just 2 pounds.

Her mother wrapped her up in a shawl and brought her in to the hospital. There was no incubator so Moy Moy was parked in a small metal crib in the nurses’ station.

Two weeks later, they met an American couple, both doctors, was volunteering at the hospital. When they heard about the baby, the woman said her sister would adopt her. “The sister was me. And the baby, miraculously, against all odds, came into our lives and changed everything,” reveals Jo, adding, “She wasn’t meant to be conceived, but she was. She wasn’t meant to be born, but she was. She wasn’t meant to survive, but she did. She wasn’t meant to be our daughter, but she most certainly is.”

Here, she, herself, became a pathfinder for the children of the lesser God—mentally and physically differently-abled children after she and Ravi adopted Moy Moy in 1989, it touched her heart and personal became professional for her.

Jo knew from the very beginning that Moy Moy was different and now she could see the destiny of her life—to make the world better for differently-able children like Moy Moy and thus began Karuna Vihar in 1994 as an inclusive neighbourhood children’s centre for creativity and fun. Children get ample of opportunities for free expression, development of leadership, creative thought and problem-solving skills, unlike a rigid school system that discourages and often destroys creativity of such children.

Karuna Vihar is a part of Latika Roy Foundation that Jo started to honour the memory of one

Latika Roy, born and brought up in Bihar, married off at 18, just lettered, but the lamp of higher education kept burning in her heart and out of her sheer grit and determination, she taught herself English and then at the age of 22, escaped to Kodaikanal – already pregnant with her first child – to study education with the renowned Maria Montessori. Well after the baby was born, she returned to Dehradun, now a trained Montessori teacher, and started her own school. It started in a tent, but after adding rupee over hard-earned rupee and brick over hard-earned brick, she was able to construct her own school building in Dehradun.

But, she passed out in 1992 at the age of 74, after suffering several paralyzing strokes and left a will to continue the Montessori School continue. To fulfil her wish, her husband, approached Jo and Ravi, as Ravi and Dunu Roy, Latika’s youngest son, were close friends from their college days and two years after her death, in 1994, Mr Roy approached Jo and Ravi with a request offered him Rs. two lakhs as his contribution.

Thus, began Latika Roy Foundation began to form. But, the focus on helping children and adults with special needs sparked Moy Moy came into their lives that sparkled the beginning of Karuna Vihar as, “It turned out that Moy Moy needed a special school and there was none to be found in their city, so we started one,” says Jo.

There are other friends and aficionados Besides Pasricha, who became parts of her larger canvas when she started trading on a new path on which she would trade on for the rest of her life, Dr Steven Jerome Parker: a loving friend of babies boosted her confidence to make the life of Moy Moy and thousands other like her trade on a respectable and dignified path, is the another such long-lasting friend.

Steven came here when Moy Moy was four years old we she didn’t understand the real problem Moy Moy was suffering with and what exactly made hit was which made her different from our her different than her other two children. Then, Moy Moy could talk and walk and she had pretty much mastered all of the basics: she fed and dressed herself, she was toilet trained, she was cheerful and funny and busy with her life. “But something was missing and I was rather perturbed, so when my brother’s wife Sally, a nurse practitioner, suggested I take her to meet Steven, the doctor with whom she worked at Boston Medical Centre, a developmental paediatrician, having vast knowledge and experience with children like Moy Moy.

Dr Steven landed up in Dehradun and had a terrific visit in Karuna Vihar that That visit with Steven, which lasted several hours and stretched over two days, was the beginning of a whole new journey for me and for our family and even, in some ways, for Dehradun and all the children who have come to Karuna Vihar in the intervening years.

“What a great kid,” he started out. “She’s got a sense of humour which would be surprising in a child twice her age.  She’s funny, she’s curious, she’s happy and she’s obviously deeply loved.”

He was a very sensitive human being besides being a great doctor. He felt that that there was “a lot of scatter” as her receptive language was right not of her age and when Jo asked him if Moy had Cerebral Palsy, he said that if she want a term for it, she could say that Moy had CP, but she must help her to continue to develop and grow

It was a total shock for her and she felt as if she’d touched a live wire, although she had worked with these ‘types’ of kids earlier, had collected money for CP research when she was in high school, but always thought, it was a kid next door, “Not my child!” she felt like shouting.

And, it made the matter worst as slowly, Moy’s condition deteriorated. Dr Steven was always standing with them as a companion to row their boat in the rough and stormy weather supporting them with them us every step of the way as he kept on suggesting further tests, new therapies and other doctors. He was simply there: reassuring, counselling, encouraging.

While, Karuna Vihar had begun functioning that was opening a larger world for many other children like Moy Moy, her own condition was worsening and around five, she developed seizures and began to regress. By the age of ten she could no longer speak and required help from two people to get around; by sixteen she had quadriplegia, used a wheelchair exclusively and ate with a feeding tube. She is now 28 and completely dependent for all her needs.

 

Moy Moy was the reason for the very establishment of Latika Roy Foundation in 1994 that personified on ground in the shape of the special school for children with special needs, as Karuna Vihar when in 1996 Paula Hughes, a VSO volunteer from the UK arrived and helped to set it up that was supposed to be a school for Moy Moy and  now, more than 20 years later, her school serves hundreds of children from all over the state and the country. Because of her, over a 100 people have jobs and a purpose in life that has transformed them into extraordinary bearers of good news in a world desperately in need of it.

Her condition convinced Jo that to make a decisive change in the lives of such children and make them qualitatively meaningful, they must be caught young and thus begun The Early Intervention Centre opens on the campus of St Joseph’s Academy, a notable senior secondary school,  in the heart of Dehradun in 2002. The centre provides assessment and therapy services to any child under six with disability.

The centre strives for the overall development of such children, enhance their abilities to the full and endeavour to help them circumvent their disability. Their parents are also trained on early intervention strategies, so that they could effectively deal with their child’s issues. Hundreds of children have come here and learnt the tricks while playing and enjoying every moment.

It works in a holistic manner, based on three Ps—plan, partnership and play, resulting into the C—creativity!

Here, let’s first talk about Gubbara itself.

Planning, the plan to open a new world of possibilities and action for such children and their parents is passed on passing them the real information about the actual condition of their children by assessing them thoroughly. Its team gives detailed information to the parents about where and how to avail further intervention services in their areas and avail the rights of people with disabilities. They also know about government schemes and concessions with details on how to avail and get help to avail them, including the certificate as without this crucial piece of paper, nothing moves in this country. Children from birth to age six can come with their parents for an intensive assessment. A inter-disciplinary team of specialists works with the families to arrive at a holistic understanding of the child and her/his strengths and weaknesses. After this, in consultation with families, an easy-to-follow programme is developed which addresses parent concerns and meets the child’s therapy goals. They first practice it at Gubbara and then a in tutorial booklet is made for them to take home, so that they don’t forget it! Still, there are many high-risk babies, born prematurely, very much like Moy Moy and to help such parents the Foundation, “Has help-desk outside the NICU of Doon Hospital, with trained social workers and a weekly follow up programme that works to avert disabilities due to prematurity and very low birth weight and also prevent acquired disability due to lack of a nurturing, stimulating environment,” tells Jo.

It seems, Gubbara is really flying high as so far, it has assessed more than 4,000 children and has monitored 300 high-risk infants. Moreover, more than 500 from Dehradun district itself are being regularly followed up.

Gubbara is just one centre of the early intervention, running at Doon Hospital, under the PPP mode, their major work is at the EIC.

Their special educators look at all aspects of cognitive and psychological growth of the child coming there as a multi-disciplinary approach is a must here and after adopting it, an individualized education plan for each child is developed that incorporates speech and language therapy, alternative communication systems, sensory stimulation and a behaviour management.

After such a programme has been planned, therapists and special educators join hands with the parents of such children and they become partners and regular counselling based on expressed and assessed needs are conducted and then the plan is executed. “In fact, we play—playing the plan on the ground as have a bagful of strategies to work with little children and we keep adding new, innovative ones as it could be a theatre for a child with Cerebral Palsy or Picture Exchange Communication System to help a child with autism express himself, we use the most appropriate ways to help our children,” tells Jo.

The interplay of three Ps yields creative games and specific exercises that need to be performed by the children to help them develop functional skill. These children also get orthopaedic aids like footplates, AFOs and Swedish Knee Braces that help them becoming independent and functional.

Thousands of such children, mostly suffering with dreaded cerebral palsy are smiling today, Vicky, a bright child, who could neither speak nor walk, is one such kid, who came here when his chacha (uncle), a cook in the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand’s office, had heard about the EIC through its awareness work and brought him here.

In spite of being unable to walk, he had developed his own innovative style of moving and got around by lying on his back and scooting his bottom along the ground. He could not speak, but communicated his needs through his own signing system. Vicky’s parents were unable to care for him and his uncle, though himself unmarried, volunteered to adopt him and was shocked to learn that Vicky had CP.

Vicky responded quite positively to the therapists’ plan and within a few months of regular physiotherapy, he began standing with support and quickly progressed to standing on his own. At the age of five he graduated to Karuna Vihar School where he has continued to develop his communication skills. After a year of steady, hard work, Vicky finally mastered walking unassisted.

“The day he took his first steps, he was so delighted with himself that he walked in circles round and round the room, laughing out loud for joy. Vicky is now a happy, charming boy who loves playing and learning,” recalls Jo joyfully. Although still non-verbal because of his Cerebral Palsy, his receptive language skills are excellent and he understands most concepts that a child of his age should.

Simran is the other child who has now bright days ahead in her life, whereas when he came here in 2006, her life was just a black as she wasn’t dark abyss. During the first week of her life Simran suffered from severe sepsis and had repeated seizures. She was still unable to hold up her head when she was a year old, reach out for toys, or manage semi-solid foods. At 14 months Simran’s parents took her to meet a paediatric surgeon who referred them to Karuna Vihar where it was found that she had Cerebral Palsy.

A home programme was developed for her. Her family quickly realized the value of therapy and discovered that she was a very bright child who understood far more than she was able to express. Simran soon learned to sit unsupported, play with a range of toys, feed herself, and get up and walk with minimal support. She began communicating well using gestures and learnt to use a communication board. Simran’s parents are devoted to her and optimistic about her future.

Now her proud parents have encouraged a number of others to bring their children to Karuna Vihar and her progress and their commitment have been an inspiration to many families.

If EIC is the first step, Karuna Vihar Child Development Centre (KVCDC), is the next where such children and imbibed with strength and hope carry on the long journey of life.

Here, groups of parents are formed and they regularly meet and discuss common issues and concerns. Also, specialists from different fields meet them and make them more aware and equipped to deal with the challenges of parenting a special child.

And, such children aren’t ignored either as the centre has skilled physiotherapists and occupational therapists who look at the unique needs of each child and develop a special plan of therapy and sensory activities that helps the child to lead a rewarding life.

Children coming here, any special child from the age of three to 14 can join the KVCDC, learn ho to deal with this cruel world by indulging in group activities that are carefully planned and held to improve their interactive skills and develop their livelihood potentials.

Their livelihood potentials are further accentuated when they upgrade to the Karuna Vihar Centre for Vocational Training (KVCVT), open for young adults from age 16 to 21 who receive not just vocational training but skills to deal with the growing demands of adulthood, building confidence and hope by sessions on embroidery, teacher assistance skills, paper conversion, gardening, office-work skills, computer skills. Our hope is that by enabling will set them on a path of meaningful employment.

Hundreds of such youths today have gainful jobs a shy, quiet, Raju is just one of them, who joined Karuna Vihar School at the age of eight. As he had repeatedly failed in mainstream school, his parents finally brought him here in despair. His father, bit of a tyrant, with little understanding about learning difficulties, found him, Raju simply a boy who wasn’t trying hard enough.

The Centre worked with Raju on basic skills like comprehension, following instructions, simple arithmetic, reading and writing. Though he was a slow learner, he was diligent and determined and over the years he grew more and more confident about his own abilities.

At the age of 14, he graduated to the transition class of the College for Livelihoods Training and by 15, he began to express a clear preference for working. He was not interested in many of the activities like candle-making, bag-making, masala-packing, household skills – they all bored him as he wanted “a real job.”

And, that job was to work in a shop!

The Vocational Coordinator worked with his class teacher to develop the skills he would need to be successful in his chosen career and also found a shop in the local market which was willing to take Raju on as an unpaid intern.

For six months, Raju continued coming to the College for Livelihoods Training in the morning, but spent the evenings working in the store. Constant training and interaction of the Centre’s staff with the shopkeeper resulted in a wonderful news after the six-month period when an overwhelmed Raju learnt that the shopkeeper wanted to give him a full-time, paid position.

Not only that. The shopkeeper has become a spokesperson for our campaign to employ people with disabilities in Dehradun. At a recent workshop, that was held for other potential employers, he spoke about his experience with Raju as a turning point in his understanding of what people with special needs

 

2011 was the big leap year for Jo as, “This year, we began our first public-private partnership with the Govt with the setting up of Gubbara at the Doon hospital,” she informs

 

Funded by National Rural Health Mission, Gubbara provides an intensive assessment and a home management plan by an interdisciplinary team of specialists to families from around the state.

Start of the follow up of the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) babies at the Doon Hospital. Premature and at-risk babies discharged from the NICU are enrolled for a follow-up programme at Gubbara to monitor their development in the first year of life.

 

It was the Special school that initially began for Moy Moy and now, it has become the special school for thousands of special children.

The Karuna Vihar Special School (KVSS), a school for children with special needs is an innovative centre for activity-based learning. Here children from 7 to 14 years learn to deal with their world independently. They develop academic skills as per their levels and grow into happy and confident youngsters.

Children who come here, are a happy lot as they have lots of fun, play and learn. First, the physiotherapists of the Foundation, make the therapy sessions so much fun that the children get more strength in their limbs and mobility and flexibility without even realizing that they have been through a physiotherapy session. They learn correct postures and movements in all activities. Children slowly, but surely, understand these processes and as these are activity based, they love to perform them outdoors and also in kitchen and classrooms. At home, parents take charge and follow the plan, resulting into such children becoming independent to lead their shattered lives.

Shefali is one of the thousands of such children. She came here when she was six, as a dirty and unkempt child was completely dependent and understand only her most basic needs – hunger, using the toilet and that’s too, only by indicating. After a series of therapies and activities sessions, within a month, she was so changed that her mother couldn’t believe and asked the school director. “Are you giving her drugs or Injections as she is not the same girl?” Naturally, she was dumbfounded and couldn’t think that a drug-less therapy can change her special child just within a month as Shefali had begun to take in her surroundings, the increasing efforts made to communicate and, most especially, her eagerness to go to school every morning. On Saturdays and Sundays, she insisted on being taken to the bus stop in spite of being told it was a holiday. One Saturday, returning home disappointed, she slipped away and made her way back to the bus stop herself, just to make doubly sure. As she was incapable of sitting still for more than a minute and her social skills were non-existent, she was allowed to set her own pace for integrating into the school routine. As each new activity was initiated with the other children, she was encouraged to join in, but the moment she lost interest, she was allowed to go off where she pleased with a staff member for company. The slightest overture toward the group met with praise and encouragement from the teachers. Over weeks, the loving, accepting environment of the school began to work its magic with Shefali. More and more, she joined in group activities, responded to the teachers’ directions and reacted in a friendly way to the other children. Today, Shefali is a happy, sociable young woman who loves to help around her house in a variety of useful ways. She has learned to wash dishes, chop vegetables, make chapattis and run little errands for her mother. She can dress and feed herself and is able to take her own bath. Her speech is still limited, but she can make herself understood to her family and close friends.

Then, there is Latika Vihar, bearing the original name of the Foundation, for children between 3 and 15 years of age. Play is the language spoken here and the rule is—everyone is someone and full freedom is extended to those who have extra disabilities. The counsellors hold sessions with the children and their parents to discuss their concerns and they realise that others are also having these problems and they are not isolated and can cope with their problems in their own unique ways. Soon, children learn to plan organise and execute their creative ideas in a way that includes everyone.as children need time to discover their own creativity and imagination with no adult interference. Here they are free to explore toys, books, dance, music, pottery, drama, sports and story-telling at their own pace, as little or as much as they like. In the process they become effective leaders and managers.

Here is the story of Hema, who joined Latika Vihar at the age of 11, as a scrappy and tough girl and was assigned to hold the punching bag for the martial arts class to practice their kick-boxing on. One child after another ran up and landed their ineffectual, feathery little kicks on the bag and Anand, Jo’s ‘normal’ son, was holding it up with only half his strength, so that is wasn’t kicked off and children could have fun! Suddenly, Hema emerged from the pack like a cannonball, raced up to the bag and kicked it so hard he was knocked right over.

That was Hema: grabbing her life in both her hands and engages with it. As a child at Latika Vihar, she was full of energy and vitality, a lively sense of humour and fun. She was always ready to take risks, totry new things, to challenge assumptions and set her own course. Now, she has grown as a fearless and passionate adult, full of ideas and sparkle, still taking risks, still setting her own course.

In 1999, she started working as Moy Moy’s carer, a job she held successfully and with great dedication for three years. She then moved on to a full-time job at Karuna Vihar as an assistant teacher. And finally, full-circle, she was appointed coordinator for the littles at Latika Vihar, planning and conducting the activities she once participated in as a child herself.

Jo’s obstination to expand the world for the differently-able persons received a pat when in 2011,  Latika Roy Foundation was selected as the ‘NGO of the year’, an award by the National Trust- an autonomous group within the Government of India’s Ministry of Social Welfare and Empowerment that was further boosted when the CNN-IBN, a major news channel. honoured them with Real Hero Award.

Then, Vodafone included the Foundation in its World of Difference programme and so far, its Gujarat Circle of Employees has raised over two lakhs ($5000) for them.

 

But, establishing LRF and running it for about quarter of a century as an effort to create an inclusive world for the excluded people, isn’t the end of the road for Jo, but the beginning, the beginning for building a truly best-of-the-world, campus that would be like a monument, having state-of-the-art facility and all paraphernalia for these children, for which she has to raise a big amount of Rs.30 crores.

This monument for the differently-able persons will be an integrated one-stop centre for disability services will improve usage and access as it would increase access and quality by transforming the system into one of high-quality institutions will require consolidation of capacity. “The current system limits our ability to innovate, undertake regular monitoring and surveillance of our programmes and increase flexibility in service delivery. Senior professionals, currently limited by geography, will be able to provide their inputs and supervision efficiently across centres. It would also bring all seven centres together in one place, that will reduce spending on transportation from one centre to the other, increase opportunities for organizing coordinated activities between different centres and give more time to staff for providing high- quality services and will ensure an effective utilization of resources. Then, it will have a user-centric design: “We envision an infrastructure designed for the changing needs and requirements of a rapidly evolving sector. The building, which will be state-of-the-art, will incorporate Universal Design features and demonstrate a high degree of human and environmental sustainability through workers’ safety and well-being during construction and employment of solar technology, rain-water harvesting systems and waste management. The campus will be a model of inclusion for the entire country, showcasing how architecture and design can reduce and even eliminate barriers for people with disabilities,” tells Jo.

In short, it will be a monument of unified approach to disability as under the current fragmented system of the Foundation, there is limited scope for communicating or sharing ideas – both among staff as well as between families using their services. A single consolidated campus will increase chances of targeting users as services for both persons with disability and their families will be provided under the same roof. Besides, it will demonstrate institutional maturity and integrity as well as long-term sustain- ability and reliability. Such a purpose-built campus will allow staff to showcase best practice and compete on a world stage, will give them pride and a sense of u . We dream of a building which staff bring their families to see. We want them to say proudly: “This is where I work. This is the best there is.”

That monument, rather a net of love, understand and care would be indeed a big leap forward towards creating a holistic and inclusive society for the differently-able children not just of Dehradun, but for the entire state of Uttarakhand, and may be for the entire country. Already, until now, thousands children and young adults have walked in seven centres of the Foundation and walked out as skilful, competent and talented citizens of tomorrow, besides hundreds of medical, para-medical and community workers besides teachers, educators and caregivers have been trained and sensitized, gratifying Jo’s philosophy, “Indeed, whenever something needs to be done and the way looks dark and the task seems impossible, we think of the child whose whole existence has been a series of impossibilities and we realize, once again, that all things are possible with faith, love and the willingness to leap into the unknown. Just leap. The net will appear.”

Her entire world was shattered when Moy Moy said adios to this mortal world on the wee hours of 30 July, 2018. But she re-lived as she & Ravi are sure that she has gone elsewhere to enlighten other lives, sine Jo believes what the great American poet Ben Jonsonn said:

A lily of a day,

Is fairer far in May,

Although it fall and die that night—

It was the plant and flower of Light.

In small proportions we just beauties see;

And in short measures life may perfect be.

Moy Moy indeed lives in thousands of lesser mortals of God that Karuna Vihar has nourished!

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About rirakesh

I feel a bit disturbed by the prevailing condition in our society, so I write: poems, articles & stories.
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