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#ChangeMakers - An idol to many, Elizabeth Philip keeps inspiring through her relentless work

In our June campaign #ChangeMakers, we focus on school principals who are working relentlessly to promote inclusion in schools. This week, we shine the spotlight on Elizabeth Philip.

Elizabeth Philip was always clear she wanted to follow her passion for teaching. A professional psychologist, she completed her B.Ed in Special Education before embarking on a career as a teacher.

In a career spanning over 23 years, she has empowered countless children with various types of disabilities. Her commitment towards empowering children had made a difference in many ways, as we find out.

Currently the principal of Raksha Special School in Kochi, Elizabeth decided to start working at this school after an encounter with some students here. One of them Minu, who has autism, touched Elizabeth's heart in particular. Minu, who is non-verbal, spoke volumes through her eyes.

I came to Raksha School for an internship and that changed my life. I met a few students and the interaction with them showed me that nothing is impossible for a disabled person. Initially, I had just theoretical knowledge about the needs of disabled children. Soon enough I realised that this is my true calling and decided to take up a job here at the school. -Elizabeth Philip, Principal, Raksha Special School

Elizabeth's family is her biggest asset. Her family, made up of her husband and two sons, have always stood by her. She recollects days when she would come back home, worn out and exhausted. "Some days I come across heart-wrenching stories from parents. They want to confide on someone and unburden. When you constantly hear that, it has a deep impact on you and that definitely wears you out, says Elizabeth.

For teachers and parents, Elizabeth is a powerhouse of energy and positivity. Handling so many children and their parents is not an easy task and there's a lot of patience and hard work that goes into making a difference in their lives.

"What these children need is not sympathy but empathy. We must put ourselves into their shoes and try to understand what they need. People tend to underestimate children with disabilities or what they can do. Parents and teachers must work together to bring out the best in a child, says Elizabeth.

Team work, she says, is key. "Youngsters who venture into the world of special education believe that they can make a difference in the lives of children with their efforts alone. That is not true. Only team work can help in the progress of a child". This means parents, teachers and the children working in coordination. It is also important to give personalised attention, she says. "Concentrate on the strengths of the child and work on improving their weakness. Most of us work on trying to fit these children into our concept of normalcy. They have their own unique character and one should let it be."

Over the years, awareness about disabilities had improved in Kerala and that is making a difference. "Until 20 years ago, parents would bring their disabled children at the age of eight or 10. That is too late for the child but today parents are more aware about developmental milestones and children less than two years of age are seeking help".

Amidst her busy schedule, Elizabeth takes the time out to bond with the kids and that makes her much beloved.

"She is very friendly and we can speak to her about anything under the sun", says Mary Jiya, a student of Raksha School. "That is one of her biggest qualities. Elizabeth ma'am is always supportive of us and we can discuss anything with her.

ALSO READ: #ChangeMakers - A teacher by accident, Shiny Vinson weaves a rare magic with kids

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