‘Shishu Sarothi’ is a centre for rehabilitation & training of multiple disabilities, situated opposite of Ramakrishna Mission, Guwahati,Assam. In recognition of its achievements, Shishu Sarothi received the National Award for Best Institution from the President of India in 2004, and also State Award for Best Community Service from the Chief Minister of Assam in 2007. Here are some excerpts from my interview with the augustly, Mr. Arman Ali, Executive Director of the organization.
VP: Sir, when and how did this noble venture start?
AA: First of all please don’t attach words such as noble; we are just doing our duty of being a part of the society. The organization was started in 1987 by a few like minded people. It was a humble beginning with a rented house, only two kids and a single trained professional.
VP: Kindly, enlighten us on your functioning.
AA: We run training programmes, approved by Rehabilitation Council of India, Govt. of India (RCI), with the aim to create a pool of trained rehabilitation professionals in the region. During the year 2007-08, our Human Resources Department has trained over 5000 teachers, special educators, doctors and other professionals. A Day Care Centre for Special education (CSE) is run for Guwahati based children to provide child specific programmes through all-round educational and therapeutic inputs. At present our Centre for Special Education is providing education and therapeutical inputs to over 100 children with disabilities through a regular curriculum. Our Diagnostic Clinic and Outdoor Service Department (OSD) is attended by children from all over the North East region, whereby we screen children and provide Home Management Programmes, Early Intervention, Counseling and Demonstration of Physiotherapy. Every year, our Outdoor Service Department provides these services to over 600 children, including infants, from all over the North East. Our Disability Law Unit advocates the rights of persons with disabilities through litigation, policy change & sensitization programmes. It provides legal assistance & information to people from all over the Northeast region. A one year Vocational Training for Disabled Youths is conducted whereby 10 youths with cross disability are trained in catering and other hotel service business. We have a tie up with the Institute of Hotel Management. Govt. of India.
VP: We would like to know more about your growth over the period of time.
AA: As I told before, it was a humble beginning, we got land from the government and as time passed we grew in size, man-power and reach. At first, we worked in a single room, now we provide outdoor services which include physiotherapy sessions. Presently, we are able to support other such organizations in community level.
VP: In our society, people with disabilities are seceded from the rest and always looked down upon- what is your say on this?
AA: There is a stigma attached to disability. I believe poverty leads to disability and vice-versa. Take for instance if a mother does not get proper care during pregnancy, she produces off-springs with various disorders. There is a myth that goes- a disabled child is a curse for the sins committed in past life, the believer in this fallacy seclude the disabled child from the rest of their family. But thankfully, things are changing for good.
VP: How do you rate your performance so far in moving towards the goal you had set up?
AA: We have miles to go, presently we are able to cater to a very negligible part of the disabled population but we will surely progress through dedicated efforts.
VP: What are your future goals?
AA: We want to be a one-stop knowledge centre for the people with disabilities and help them attain equal rights in the society
VP: The deterrent factors, if any that you faced in this noble cause?
AA: Everyday is a fight as both resources and manpower are limited. Another thing we need to cope with is breaking the barriers of mind, which can be done only by spreading more awareness.
VP: How has been the Government support?
AA: Not much to talk about here. Only 2 of our projects are supported by the Government which in no way is enough.
VP: Tele-serials and movies have been highlighting various forms of mental and physical disabilities, since a long time. What is your take on that?
AA: Reel and real life are two completely different things, the way disabled characters are portrayed in reel life- equipped with all the necessities and blessed with social acceptances; the reality is quite contrasting, and everyone is not fateful enough to enjoy such support. Though, I appreciate the positive energy that they create, it certainly helps as they have mass impact.
VP: As you are aware, in today’s generation lots of people are eager to contribute towards the society- could you suggest any ways through which we can play our part in your mission.
AA: By garnering resources – both monetary and non-monetary. You can actively participate as volunteers and help us pave the path for their better future.
VP: Any special message you want to share?
AA: It is high time the disabled people are recognized as equals and considered as part of our mainstream society.