We first met Mrs Maria John, the principal and the vice-principal from the Sneha Jyothi School For Children With Intellectual Disabilities with Sripuram Public Relations Officer Yuvaraj in his office at Sri Narayani Peedam in the Vellore District of South India. Mrs. John had made the 3 hour trip from their remote differently-abled school in the Jawadhi Hills to make a presentation to us for the need for a computer, monitor and keyboard, LCD display screen, tables and chairs. Over two years before Mrs John had made the same trip to Sripuram, asking for equipment for her children.
The Sneha Jyothi school was established in 1994 by the St. Thomas Hospital and Leprosy Center in Chetpet, South India to support disadvantaged children and their families. The principal and vice-principal are Christian Sisters and have backgrounds in health and community outreach. They were happy to make a difference in the quality of these children’s lives.
In the presentation we heard how cruelly differently-abled children were treated in some parts of India. We heard stories of children being tied to fences, locked in rooms, and generally turned out into the streets by parents with few financial or social resources to cope. We were told that often the cultural belief is that children with intellectual disabilities are possessed by evil and not considered quite human. Canadians Sharing was invited to consider providing a computer, monitor, keyboard and a large screen LCD Projector to aid training in basic eating, dressing and toilet skills. We were also invited to provide tables and chairs for meeting, dining and as educational aids.
Mrs. John’s requirements fit within our Basic Amenities and Educational Programs and we were delighted to be able to help by purchasing the computer equipment and large screen projector. We had limited funding and were unable to meet all of their requirements. Friends with a charitable group from Singapore called Hear Their Voices stepped in to purchase and donate the additional tables and 50 chairs.
We accepted the sisters’ invitation to visit their school and made the 3 hour drive into the Western Ghats to visit, accompanied by a sturdy delivery truck. The roads were on the whole very good but sometimes a little narrow around corners and a little busy with trucks and buses. We had a little trouble finding the school but eventually arrived with the help of the Village Postmaster. I was happy to see that the almost fifty children were reasonably well dressed, were able to sit in neat rows, and were quite disciplined. There were 3 teachers and appeared to be 3 support staff to help with the children’s needs. The facility was fairly large by local standards and clean. The sisters mentioned that they had not had enough funding over the last few years and the rooms showed a bit of wear and tear.