Balasubramanya’s father passed away. Balu’s (as he is fondly called) mother Lakshmi was left all alone, having to care for her son who was in high school. In normal circumstances, this would have seemed like an adverse situation that could be coped with eventually. But here, the situation was quite different. Balu is a special child, affected by cerebral palsy.
As he grew up into a handsome young man, life became tougher for the mother, as his movements were more and more restricted and she could not handle him all alone. So, the principal of the school in Chennai, where Balu was then studying, suggested that she approach Vishwashanthi Niketan, a care centre, in Nelamangala, on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Today, Balu is cared for in the centre, and his mother too stays there, working as a skill trainer of many such mentally challenged persons.
Renukavijaya, project in-charge at the institution says, “This is an institution founded by the parents of special children — born with mental problems of any kind, such as, cerebral palsy or down syndrome or autism. And every parent is haunted by the thought, “after me, what?” Who will take care of their kids after they pass away is always a nagging concern. So, a few such parents got together and reached the consensus that a well-organised institution would be a sound choice for other families like their’s, which might need assistance. I too had a son who was mentally challenged and died at the age of 12. So, I know the difficulties in taking care of such persons.”
The group then put their proposal before the Karnataka Parents’ Association For Mentally Retarded Citizens (KPAMRC), formed about 40 years ago. The association welcomed the idea and designed a project to facilitate the stay of 50 persons with intellectual and developmental challenges on a long term basis, at the estimated cost of Rs three crore. The project was launched successfully in the year 2005 on a piece of land donated by one late Vishwanath, whose son Arvind, an autistic person, still lives in the organisation (Home). “Arvind is a very good violinist, besides being a dynamic and cheerful person, who inspires all of us,” says Renukavijaya.
As of today, there are eight women and 20 men availing the services of this centre. The president of the Home is K R Venkatesh and the secretary is J P Gadkari. They want to expand the project to accommodate 50 persons in all. The Home is spacious and well-maintained with comfortable beds (two or three in a room, based on its size), clean bathrooms, an entertainment hall with television and a well-furnished dining hall. Some of the residents are bedridden, while a couple of them need the help of wheelchairs for mobility. “We take care of them, in whatever condition they are, with love and compassion. I have been here for the last three years and am touched by the kind of affection and love these people shower on us,” says Manju, a young caretaker.
Lakshmi says, “My son is very well taken care of and I am happy to stay here and help so many other such special people in my own way.” She trains those who are able to follow her and involve in the activities to make candles, carpets, paper envelopes and bags.
For their pleasure
The residents are taken out to movies once in a month and on short trips once every two months. They eagerly await these outings and enjoy them a lot. Some of them, who never used to talk or interact before coming here, have started doing so now. They all shower their love on the caretakers and administrators. Their parents too keep visiting the centre and volunteering for short periods now and then.
A team of doctors from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) camp at the centre at regular intervals and take care of the medical needs of the residents. For emergency medical attendance, the centre has tied up with a hospital nearby. It is not aided by the government and hence charges a specific amount to meet the day-to-day expenses from each inmate, for maintaining and running the centre. It also has plans to cater to the underprivileged in the future.
Vishwa Shantiniketan has earned accolades for their dedicated and sincere services by way of awards — Premlata Peshawaria National Award and the National Award for the Empowerment of Persons With Disabilities of the Government of India. The National Trust (under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment) supports and encourages this institution in many ways. Candidates pursuing the Special Educators’ Courses conducted by the Rehabilitation Council of India come here for practical training. The caretakers, trainers and other staff members of the centre too are provided comfortable accommodation and boarding facilities.
For details, contact Vishwashanti Niketan on 9341379910, 9343481998, 9343623960.