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Tamahar Trust offers specialised care & therapies to children with disabilities & their families

Tamahar in Sanskrit means 'Remover of Darkness' and that is exactly what Bengaluru-based NGO Tamahar Trust has done for over 500 families with children with autism, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities since it was started by occupational therapist Vaishali Pai.

In 1990 when occupational therapist Vaishali Pai moved to Bengaluru, she was dismayed to see the gaps that exist when it comes to specialised interventions for children with developmental disabilities. This led her to start Tamahar Trust in 2009, which over the decade has reached out to over 500 families.

"I wanted to do something that would benefit a large number of people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds", says Vaishali. "People with money have the resources to look for the best of services while many others take what is handed out. I wanted to change that angle as I felt that the quality of services should not depend on what people can afford".

Today Tamahar Trust centres reach out to families not only from Bengaluru but other parts of India. 70% of them are from the lower socio-economic strata. There are families coming from Bangladesh and the Gulf as well for care and support. No one is turned away. "Whatever the challenge, we dig deep and see how we can help them", adds Vaishali.

Multiple-level support

The support services offered at Tamahar Trust are in two verticals. One, is about the children where the approach followed is a holistic one. "We have designed one session such that all the child's needs are addressed in one go - communication, physical, intellectual, and social".

Alongside there is a focus on functional academics which takes into account the needs of children with disabilities, who do not flourish as well with rote learning. As children grow developmentally, programmes are added. This includes Pre Vocational Training, designed for adolescents and young adults to make them ready to take up any employment opportunity and Sheltered Workshops, which are facility-based day programs attended by adults with disabilities. There are auxiliary programmes as well like yoga, music, speech and physiotherapy.

The other vertical is support for families.

We started a Mothers' Support Group eight years ago which meets once a week and we started a Fathers' Support Group over a year ago. We have one on one sessions for family members and a skill development for mothers who are uneducated. The idea is to make them self sufficient so that financially they cease being unpaid caregivers. If they sustain themselves, lives become happier. - Vaishali Pai, Founder, Tamahar Trust

Rajni*, name changed, started coming to the Tamahar Trust centre about three years ago. "We have seen a great improvement in our daughter, especially in terms of speech. Through the intervention sessions that take place at Tamahar, we now understand how to take care of our daughter better at home as well as on a daily basis. Earlier, we were sad about her condition. However, after joining the Mothers' Support group, I feel emotionally stronger."

The organisation also uses its strong network in the medical community to help parents get the right medical intervention. "We don't have doctors' on board but we have good connect in the medical fraternity and help families get a good rate", adds Vaishali.

Tamahar Trust has also partnered with the Organisation for Rare Diseases India (ORDI) to develop a system for detecting rare diseases and design rehabilitation programmes.

"We take in everybody and everyone who comes in", says Vaishali, who does not believe in saying no to anyone. The work, she is clear is still not finished. "We want to do much more, I am still not fulfilled completely".

Also Read: Empowering parents & changing public attitudes - Meet the team behind SOCH-Autism Society of Punjab

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