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Lighting up lives of Special Children - Diya Foundation
Rachel, a Cerebral Palsy child was very delicate and needed special care when she was brought in to Diya Foundation. But at that time, the organisation did not have all the facilities to provide special care, such as toilet training etc. That is when, Rachel's parents were very supportive and were committed to do anything to make sure there is not much trouble to the organisation. Rachel was in the organisation for a brief period, before she fell very sick and was admitted to the hospital. On her birthday, the doctors said she wouldn’t make it. So, Diya and her members and some of Rachel’s friends visited Rachel in the hospital with a cake. Diya in collaboration with Make A Wish, had sent in a request for a walkie-talkie that she wanted as her birthday gift. That evening, Rachel fought hard and made a quick recovery. Since then, she has been with Diya Foundation and has made substantial progress as an essential member at Diya. Rachel says that she would not be here today, if not for Diya!
Diya foundation, founded by Maria S Santamaria in 1999 is a special educator who wanted to start an organisation to help develop certain skills among children and adults who suffer from cerebral palsy, intellectual disability and autism. Diya Foundation aims to equip special children with necessary life and work skills, so that they achieve independence and can become functional units of the mainstream society. The organisation strives to bring out their strengths through their different abilities and focus on empowering and spreading awareness among the general public that these disorders can be treated.
Maria, while discussing the efforts of her team members in putting up a great show almost every day to be able to help these special kids, she shares her recent TCS World 10k run experience where the entire team joins together to raise funds for their programmes through this platform. "This year's 10k Run was a first for me and since the rains had flooded the streets - it was bit of a mess. For my students and staff who did the 4K and 5.7 K the experience was a better one. The platform helps us tremendously in raising funds, as this is the only fundraising event where we do not have to worry about logistics of the event but only to get ourselves there and share our proposals with corporate and individuals. We have been participating in this event since 2009 and Yes, it is a part of our annual calendar."
Members of Diya Foundation usually give one-to-one support to these children and their parents. They have many programmes and have special training facilities and faculties for achieving their aim. Children are selected into this programme after understanding their skill sets and their abilities. Another important dimension is the expectation from their parents, and explaining them the goals of the programme itself. After which, there is 3 month trial period in which the child has an opportunity to settle where certain general assignments are given, according to the ability of that child and the expectation of their parents. Post that the child is admitted.
Diya Foundation currently has around 65 children. Diya Foundation, started off with treating children suffering from intellectual disability and cerebral palsy, but today they have come far from treating only these children but also provide health care for children suffering from autism and other physical and mental challenges. During its course of development, Diya faced many challenges but has overcome strongly as a family. Though Diya foundation rents a small place for their activities, space is still limited for a few. There are many children whom, they can reach out to, but lack of space is making it difficult for them to increase their reach. The second challenge is placing these individuals in well-paying jobs. There is a belief that individuals suffering from mental and physical disabilities are completely unfit for any kind of job and are incapable of fitting into the mainstream society. Diya strives hard to break this prejudice by spreading awareness and advocating for an inclusive society. The third challenge Diya faces is limitation of funds which leads to a limitation in hiring expert trainers which in turn makes it very difficult for them to teach special kids with special requirements.
Maria's message to the newcomers, ”Though it sounds overwhelming hearing for the first time all you must do, take small steps and be realistic about meeting goals.”
If one ever visits Diya, I can assure you, that you will be swept off your feet watching these children perform tasks so well. This place is a home and the only chance for these underprivileged children with special abilities. Their belief is in line with Mother Teresa’s quote. They believe in doing small things with great love and bring change in many lives.As Spoken to,Divya G RaoIndia Cares Foundation07 August 2017