I have been working with Sense International, a developing country charity helping the deafblind, since 2004. I had a long-term goal to develop a resource and home services centre for deafblind children in Ranchi, Jharkhand Province, India, and I was fortunate to secure CLSA Chairman’s Trust funding for the project in 2012.
I have recently spent two days re-visiting the project and the progress has been quite remarkable. Indeed, it now appears that our resource centre may need to move to larger premises within the next twelve months! The Chairman’s Trust funding is mainly used for training of local special educators, carers and mentors as well as supplying sensory equipment.
I had hoped to see progress on this visit, but what I witnessed was truly awe inspiring. Imagine the world as a child who hears and sees very little, or sometimes, nothing at all. Imagine being a parent of a deafblind child without the education or skills needed to properly care for them. Imagine not being able to ask for food, water, to go to the toilet – basic necessities that we all take for granted. The communication barriers are immense. But we can break through, and once this first hurdle is breached, the impact is life-changing for both child and parents.
After less than 12 months on the programme, the children I visited had learnt how to communicate, and in some cases even perform basic household tasks such as making roti, or sewing. One of our 15-year old children is even helping his mother in the family store. Some of the kids have even started attending special schools for one or two days a week. But the best part by far is that they smile and laugh, they are happy. They have emerged from a dark silent world, where the overwhelming emotion was fear, and have a dignity that they could never have hoped to have had prior to this intervention initiative.