Enabling the disabled in the Nedumangad area of Kerala
Inspired by the success of our special needs centre in Tamil Nadu, Philip Mathew wished to provide something similar in Nedumangad, the nearest large town to Kulappada. He surveyed the area, and found that there were many disabled children who were not receiving the help that they needed because the parents could not afford it. We already had a building in the area which was used some of the time for counselling and some craft production; on the other days we opened it up for disabled children and their parents to come and receive free physiotherapy. A part-time physiotherapist comes for three half-days a week. In addition to treating the children, he gives the parents guidance and shows them exercises that they will do with their children during the week. About 30 children are helped in this way.
Akhil (cerebra palsy) on a medicine ball, with our physiotherapist and his mother
The next stage was to expand the services on offer, with acupressure and speech therapy now given freely to disabled children whose parents could not otherwise afford it. We also helped with the cost of transporting the children – many are very severely disabled, and cannot travel by bus, so need an autorickshaw or taxi to bring them. There is also a drink – tea or squash – and a biscuit, making it a convivial place for the parents to meet and support one another.
The centre then moved into larger premises is the village of Kalathara. The building is much better, and allows for disabled access, and Philip took advantage of this to include special needs education. Two special needs teachers come each day. Philip found that there were many children who would benefit, but whose disabilities meant that they could not use public transport, so he persuaded one of his relatives, who works in the Gulf, to provide a small minibus to bring the children each day and then to take them back home at the end of the day. He also arranges regular meetings with the parents. The resut is a thriving community.
The latet news is that the centre now has a full-time physiotherapist who lives in the centre. The result has been that the children receive even more individual attention, and are making more rapid progress.
This is a relatively recent development – it has been going for just a few years – but we are already seeing real benefits for the children. Those who were unable to do anything except lie helplessly are able to sit up, those who were unable to stand are taking tentative first steps, and those who were unable to speak intelligibly are now able to communicate. We have great hopes for the future – and Philip is full of ideas as to how he would like to expand this, if only funds will allow it.