By Occupational Therapist Caroline Molloy
Five years ago, I heard a mother speak about how hard it was to get services for her disabled child in her town in India and how she was determined to make a change by opening a special school herself. When I offered to help, it was in fact by means of a bit of fund raising or helps with accessing some resources. I never imagined that I would be taking an active role in the development of the service and that through it I would find that same light of commitment which is still burning strong after 5 years and 5 trips to India.
The Deepti Centre is situated in Kerala , South India. It is a rural, lush community popular with tourists as a holiday destination. The local language is Malayalam, although English is spoken by most people and taught at school. The word “Deepti” means light in Malayam, and from the very beginning it has been a shining example of love and care in action, that has family values at its core.
Deepti was started as a centre for children with cerebral palsy, although it has broadened its remit to admit any child with special needs in the area. It was founded. By Dr Susan Mathew, who has is a mother of 4 sons whose youngest was born with cerebral palsy. Her son Jyothish is the inspiration behind Deepti, not even Susan would have imagined the growth of Deepti from 1 to 71 children in 5 years.
Our aim for our most recent trip was to set up a sensory room, in a small building next door to the physiotherapy room. We were very thankful for a significant number of items from Rompa which are now part of the sensory assessment crate, which we have left ready for use. It’s true to say that you don’t know what is missing until you realise it’s missing, but we hadn’t realised we had so few resources for our children who had visual problems. Once we had been to the shops to buy heavy suiting material for black out blinds, we were able to equip the new sensory room with battery operated lights, and soft lighting so that the Occupational Therapist could create a relaxed and calming atmosphere for our children with sensory needs. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when one of our boys was given a flashing light ball, he rolled it around the floor, held it up to his face, and we could see he could see it! He called to his mother “I can see the light, I can see the light” it was indeed a very moving experience.
Our time at Deepti is always so short, and this year we stepped up and delivered our training program from the local hotel conference suite. This enabled us to professionally film all our training, so that this can be edited and translated into other languages, which will have a significant impact in rural communities across Asia. As an accidental consequence, our training was also filmed by 2 Keralan TV stations and was on air for 8 mins on national TV. I can’t tell you what impact that had on our mothers and families, to receive that kind of media attention, and acknowledgement that both they and their children had significance and value.
If you would like more information about the Deepti Centre please visit www.carolineinkerala.wordpress.com