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Chaarana Centre for Special Needs is a haven for disabled children in Bengaluru

October 20, 2018

Dr Moona Sumalatha is a globetrotter who was always passionate about reaching out to disabled people. During her travels, Moona has come across many children who were in dire need of help, but never got any. She was on a trip to Vietnam when she decided to volunteer for an NGO that empowered disabled children. There, she met a two year old girl whose eyelids were stuck and she did not have any eyelashes either! She was non verbal and it was impossible to understand what she was trying to communicate. She was a victim of the agent orange attack. This chemical was dropped by America on Vietnam and has caused irreparable damage to people in the country, and also for generations to come. Moona came across hundreds of similar children. By then, she knew what her true calling was. It was to work for disabled children.

After coming back to India, Moona joined hands with Yash Aditya, who was already working with disabled children. Together they started Chaarana Centre for Special Children in Benagluru. They opened doors to children with all kinds of disabilities on February 2015. Today, they have over 15 students who undergo sessions and therapies at their centre.

The sights I witnessed at Vietnam are something we cannot even imagine. It was extremely disturbing. I never had any prior knowledge about how to reach out to disabled children. Thanks to Yash, things are better now. Yash is a very gifted person and has a natural way of interacting and communicating with disabled children. Since we did not want to start it purely as an NGO, Chaarana was started off as a proper school. So in case we have a child from an economically backward family, we request the parent to come and volunteer with us. It is more like a barter system. We want to learn and earn as much as we give out to our children- Dr. Moona Sumalatha, Co-founder, Chaarana.

Chaarana empowers children with autism and other disabilities through programmes including therapies, holistic classes, yoga, speech, outdoor activities, horticulture and more. Moona claims that their water therapy has helped many children. Children spend time in a makeshift pool together with their peers. Their communication and social skills are enhanced after this therapy.

At Chaarana, founders believe that mothers are primary caregivers and therapists. So they try and hold programmes to create awareness amongst mothers who go back home and spread the message. Children take back home and practice whatever they learn at Chaarana at their homes with the help of mothers. This way, the mother also becomes a therapist!

Chaarana is now looking into different ways on how to make a disabled child independent in life. For that, they need to focus on vocational skills. The founders say that dearth of funds stop them from bringing in more resources. But these financial constraints are not dampening their spirits. They are already in the right track and are looking into ideal ways to help disabled children stand on their own feet.

Lata Sophia Xavier is the mother of 13 year old William Robert from Chaarana. Sophia says that one of her best decisions in life was to send her son to Chaarana.

"My son has autism. I had put him in different special schools but nothing seemed to work. Since he is non-verbal, he needed more attention and care. That is when I came to know of Chaarana. Now, he has improved a lot. Even though he is non-verbal, he understands things better now. He has learned to have food on his own and balance things. The hard work and dedication of founders at Chaarana has amazed me", says Sophia.

ALSO READ: Some tips to keep in mind when dating someone with autism

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