Arvind Foundation had its humble beginnings in 2004 with founders Athma Raj and Sudha Athma Raj—inspired by their son Arvind (after whom the organization is named) who suffers from cerebral palsy—reaching out to underprivileged children with special needs, and their parents. Besides taking care of their nutritional needs, the foundation helps these children by providing them therapy, education, vocational training, and livelihood.
Since 2004, that has been their vision: to enable underprivileged children, young adults, and adults with special needs to be as independent as possible and to become an integral part of society, contributing to society and enjoying equal privileges, rights, and opportunities without being discriminated against; to cement their right to education, training, sports, extracurricular activities; and to increase awareness among the parents on taking care of such children.
The Arvind Foundation has five operational centers. Of the five centers, there are four centers for children under 14 years and a vocational training center for adults under social therapy. One of the centers—the Arvind Institute of Vocational Excellence—is a full-fledged vocational training center that was started in 2015. Presently, the foundation houses 65 students (under the age of 14) and approximately 60 adults and young adults, 10 teachers, 1 therapist, 5 caregivers, and 9 administrative staff.
Since 2007, the foundation has been handling special-needs adults. A majority of them hail from underprivileged families, and many of them (between the ages of 16 and 38) have not been to any training center due to poor economic conditions. The Arvind Foundation has identified special-needs adults during routine surveys and has rehabilitated them.
Vocational training at the foundation takes care of
Catering : The basics of cooking are covered, and the students set up Arvind’s Café once a quarter;
Manufacturing: Areca leaf plates as an alternative to plastic plates, powdered spices for cooking, costume jewelry, candles, greeting cards, household consumables, wood work, pottery, etc.;
Tailoring: With the guidance of teachers in the field, a few of the students and friends have established themselves as tailors.
Livelihood opportunities are, thus, created for the students, and they, in turn, receive stipends from the foundation.
Since 2009, anthroposophy and curative education have become an integral part of the foundation. The center is constantly driven by the needs and wants of its special-needs students, who are its strength, and the foundation is backed by its motivated staff who undergo training (in-house and external workshops) on a regular basis on
Anthroposophy and curative education to enrich their understanding of self, students, and others; and
Soft skills to ensure their all-round personality development.
The foundation’s in-house training programs also offers guest lectures on disability.The foundation also has weekly staff meetings along with in-house trainings and external workshops. Besides healing practices that are followed in all their centers, weekly book-reading sessions that benefit everyone at the foundation take place in their study circles in all their centers. In these sessions, teachers of the respective centers read and discuss topics related to anthroposophy.
Atmavishwas, a vocational training center at Verna, Goa, was founded by Liane da Gama. It was started with the aim of providing quality vocational training to young adults with special needs from age 16 onwards. A training and guidance on life with all its nuances was envisioned while initiating Atmavishwas. Over the years, principles of Anthroposophy and dignity of life have become the cornerstone of the work of Atmavishwas while continuing to empower people with special needs to become contributing members of society.
Atmavishwas was introduced to Anthroposophical Curative Education and Social Therapy in the year 2007 through an interaction with Friends of Camphill India, Bangalore. Liane, the project coordinator, then spent 1 year and 8 months at a Camphill community in Copake, New York, US, living, learning and deepening her knowledge of social therapy. She has since then completed 2 seminar programs in field, each a 3-year contact program. All the programs at Atmavishwas are guided by the principles and the belief that each person has his/her own destiny and they have to be assisted while that unfolds. The staff too is constantly encouraged to understand this philosophy and way of working.
Atmavishwas has always aimed to be a guide for people with special needs who are on their journey through life.In the future it hopes to be able to create small micro-organism work possibilities for the young people in the centre. Atmavishwas also hopes to introduce employable skills training in conjunction with training institutes across Goa. As this is an ongoing process and is unfolding, it can be said that the organisation is moving forward with a slow but steady pace.
Atmavishwas has a totally different way of working with adults. There is a great element of choice in the training and the freedom to voice an opinion. The organization encourages independence. The other aim is to empower the trainee to be independent, grasp the skills of his/her choice to achieve the goal of rehabilitation or find an occupation either in their family enterprise or in a co-operative environment. This also provides an opportunity for developing the personality, self-confidence and sense of satisfaction both in the trainee and his/her family.
An out-of-the-box approach to teaching and learning, both for staff and students, is a speciality of Atmavishwas. To assess the independence level of the students, the centre conducts overnight stays, both at the centre and away. They have travelled nationally and internationally to conferences and programs. Atmavishwas has an individualised education program for each student. Everything that the students need to be taught forms apart of the daily routine, and does not necessarily have a particular emphasis unless required.
Currently 11 adults aged 18+ years are availing of the services of the vocational centre of Atmavishwas. The staff consists of two teachers, one class aide and two volunteers. In addition, the centre also consist of therapists and care givers.
Study circles within the organisation have been taking place over time. This does not necessarily involve reading books but rather involves taking practical situations, understanding them and then relating them to a text, thus offering more clarity.
Treats its students as adults and gives them proper opportunities to become independent and make a useful social contribution thus increasing their self-esteem and respect.
Encourages staffto learn and develop inwardly and personally
Provides opportunities to attend conferences and lectures in the field of Anthroposophical Curative Education and Social Therapy and others, in order to get a broader view on special education services
Encourages parents to treat their wards as adults and not as children
Address: House No.25, Povacao, Near Holy Cross Church, Verna, Goa, 403002.
Contact Number: 98900 78704
Contact person: Ms. Liane da Gama
Social media link: Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Atmavishwas-The-Vocational-Centre-268136439884041/
Heart and Soul Foundation
Heart and Soul Foundation
Heart and Soul Foundation Trust manages two projects:
1. Punarvasan community centre is a free school and vocational centre catering to 25 underprivileged children with special needs, cared for by three teachers.
2. Kingdom of Childhood runs a curative section called Kalpataru, which has 30 children who are in the autistic spectrum dyslexic. There are five teachers and one helper.
The school follows a Waldorf rhythm with daily lesson plans, weekly activities, monthly blocks and an annual calendar.
Dr. Sridhar Reddy from Hyderabad fulfills the Foundation’s medical needs. He visits the centre twice a year. These visits may soon be once a month from the following academic year due to huge demand from parents. Dr. Wahida helps the centre with art therapy workshops twice a year.
Forty Nine year old Manivannan who is the pillar of the Foundation is an RCI-certified educator for the past Twenty-Eight years. He experienced Anthroposophy at age 33, which changed his entire perspective about children in need of soul care. He was part of the first batch of the four-year course on Anthroposophy at Friends ofCamphill India. He presently offers curative training to various groups of parents and teachers.
Heart and Soul Foundation’s vision is to reach out to hundreds of special children and help them through the tenets of Anthroposophy.
Future plan involves buying a small piece of land to set up a Camphill school and home.
Contact:+91 94483 78949.
Deepam: Children with Special Needs
Every child deserves love, care, and attention during their growth and development phases to become productive members of society. However, some children are born with different types of disabilities which implies that they need special needs and care compared to other normal children. It is also essential to note that situations such as poverty worsen the provision of specialized care to children with disabilities who are also eager to learn. Therefore, the provision of such essential services to this group of children requires input from various organizations and individuals working together to achieve this goal. Deepam: Children with Special Needs is such an organization dedicated to helping children with special needs in India. The organization is located at Aspiration School Campus, Aspiration, Auroville- 605101 and traces its foundation to 1992 when two Italians from Auroville gathered children with special needs from Kuilapalayam in Tamil Nadu. The organization has grown steadily and has assisted this group of kids in overcoming their challenges and living comfortable lives.
Deepam has established a website www.deepam-auroville.org.in which contains some of the significant milestones of the organization as well as more information regarding its scope and activities. Although there are no social media linkages at the moment, the organization is in the process of using this approach to enhance the awareness of its operations.
The people working for the organization recognize the fact they did not start the organization and cannot, therefore, take additional credit for the initiation of this noble initiative. However, almost every member of this organization working either directly or indirectly with the children outlines that their destinies carried them to work. Most of the workers wanted to be involved in helping the children in the society in whichever capacity, and thus the organization has provided an appropriate platform for their services. Further, the workers have outlined that the children have become a great inspiration by how they learn to overcome their challenges. The special needs children have therefore continued to provide valuable lessons to the service providers as well as other children.
The aim and vision of the organization is to provide maximum services to the local village children who never had the luxury of having their individual needs met. This vision has transformed the lives of children with special needs over the years. Deepam is thus blooming every day with activities aimed at achieving these goals. Further, the strengths and specialties of the organization include applying the skills to know the children at a personal level particularly with a deeper understanding of their exact needs which falls under the curative education programs. The organization handles thirty students regularly and twelve students on outreach arrangements. It is essential to note that the organization works with thirteen teachers and therapists as well as seven caregivers in ensuring that the children receive the quality care they need and deserve.
The organization is also actively involved with social therapy programs where the key strengths and specialties include the adult availing center which offers vocational training where the participants are engaged in activities such as handicrafts, tailoring, carpentry, macramé, creating key holders, greeting cards, floating candles, beads jewellery, among others. This program utilizes five teachers and volunteers.Deepam as an organization is helping children with special needs overcome their life challenges and brings them closer to achieving their dreams.
Address: Aspiration School Campus, Aspirtation, Auroville 605 101
Contact person: Selvi / Angelika
Contact number: 0413 2623254 / 9486865336
Friends of Camphill India
As humans, it is quite natural to feel empathy towards our fellow beings, and Friends of Camphill India was born out of just such a notion. In India, there has been a significant void in the field of residential facilities for adults with special needs. In 1999, inspired by the international Camphill movement – which had already encouraged many others around the world – a group of people found the courage to start one such life-sharing community in India.
Their vision has been and always will be to uplift and uphold the dignity of people with special needs, to make their role in society valuable through social integration and bringing out their social abilities. Their needs are the organization’s development, and vice versa, until the division disintegrates. Their strength lies in day-to-day life sharing. Friends of Camphill India runs a life-sharing community in Bangalore and is in the process of developing a similar community in Mysore.
At present, 24 adults with special needs (MR) can be accommodated in their facility. They have four trained permanent Indian co-workers (social therapists), two Indian caretakers, four Indian support staff and six to eight young volunteers from abroad. Friends of Camphill India conducts part-time three-year training programme, foundation courses in Anthroposophical Curative Education and Social Therapy. Currently, the fourth such course is running. The courses have been accredited by the Council for Inclusive Social Development in Dornach.
Friends of Camphill India can be reached at:
19th km, Bannerghatta Road, next to Ryan International School, Bangalore – 560083
Contact: Francis Aradhya, +91-80-27828571/+91-9945326740
Nandavanam Center of Excellence for Children with Developmental Challenges is a humanitarian effort to bring children with special needs into the mainstream—to endeavor to help them live a normal life with honor and dignity. It is that touch of care and solace that can light a spark of hope in anyone’s life. It was an idea that soon blossomed into a valuable and curative education center with intense inputs for the same under the umbrella and support of Newgen KnowledgeWorks Pvt.Ltd. Nandavanam is based out of Raja Nagar, Neelankarai, Chennai, and the person to be contacted is Micky Joseph.
The inspiration for Nandavanam came from the fact that India needs much work in this sector. There was a huge gap between ground realities and what was being done. However, the government has also now made many requisite changes in its policies and, as a result; many NGOs have stepped forward to aid the disability sector. The scenario is changing proactively and every day sees a new dawn thanks to sustained medical research happening globally and psychological approaches being developed. Nandavanam’s efforts are comprehensive, child-centric and holistic to develop life-support skills for differently abled children. The center has developed systems based on traditional Indian knowledge. What’s more, their best practices can boast of being holistic and humane. Now, the attempt is also to make them available to the rest of the world.
Nandavanam was established in the year 2015 and receives its funding from the Newgen Group. It excels in and is dedicated to the healing and education of children with developmental challenges and learning difficulties. Nandavanam not only fosters best practices by teaching skills for life sustenance, but it also assists in the rehabilitation of those almost expunged from society and in living their lives with dignity. It is a meaningful and true integration into the mainfold of society.
Nandavanam is also in the process of establishing academic programs for children who are school dropouts and severe learning disabled, which is going to be their next milestone.
The following are their achievements and modus operandi:
Helping children through practical teaching: to create a kitchen garden, compost-making and farming.
Organizing beach walks (and other such outdoor activities) to let children experience the synergies of nature and healing: feeling the warmth of the sun, the cool breeze flowing out of the ocean, the feel of water and sand on the beaches. These walks are not only interactive but they have yielded wonderful results in calming their anxious minds.
To become independent in carrying out daily chores such as washing their plates, buttoning their shirts, combing their hair, thereby making them self-reliant in their day-to-day activities.
Encouraging caring for each other. The less-abled children (or those who have joined recently or are too young) are partnered with more-abled children who assist them in the above activities and mentor them.
The support staff plays a discreet yet affirmative role in providing relevant inputs. They can be observed extending their supporting hands and silently guiding the children. The leadership is sterling in its role to have assimilated the requirements of the children and in providing perceptible solutions, a process that is becoming seamless.
Silence is the prevalent motto. The center is a mobile-free zone and people are encouraged to speak either in low volumes or assist the children through gestures and sign language. The children are encouraged to learn by emulating and imitation.
A child is taught to accept his/her different body and is made to feel comfortable about it: through external therapies, the child comes to feel at home in its own body.
Since the children come from the lower economic strata of the society, they are provided nutritious meals. Moreover, their aura is cleansed three times a day by the use of frankincense, which is said to remove negativity. Thereafter, through eurythmy (an expressive performance art used in therapeutic healing), the child receives cosmic healing energies.
Nandavanam has an anthroposophist physician visiting the school thrice a week. Four special educators, two physiotherapists, two social workers, seven support staff, and two coworkers from Germany work with 36 children. Also, there are music and dance teachers and professionals visiting the center as part-time faculty.
The parents are made partners in this whole process by supporting the children through the NPSG (Nandavanam Parent Support Group).Their issues are discussed openly to enable the growth of the child toward self-dependence and instill confidence in him/her. The child sparkles with joy when he/she is able to carry on his/her daily activities. NPSG persistently carries on the home program designed for each child, in partnership with the parents.
The services are free of cost and are meant to serve underprivileged families.
The ‘Staff Enrichment Programme’ held every Thursday, anchored by Dr. Veera V. Panch, an anthroposophic physician, is a platform for Nandavanam’s teachers and therapists to keep themselves up to date in the practical knowledge of anthroposophy.
Nandavanam’s ambit of activities has grown overtime. The following are some:
Nandavanam Learners Club: An after-school program, this club undertakes the responsibility of helping underprivileged children of the local community with their academics and skill-building. Currently, there are 51 children attending this program.
Nandavanam Teacher Training Programme:A tutoring program that takes the responsibility toward the learning-disabled population (slow learners) of school children by training teachers in various schools across Tamil Nadu. Currently, this program trains 90 teachers on an yearly basis.
Eco-friendly Project: It highlights the importance of protecting the environment and takes meaningful steps by planting native tree saplings with the help of school children in collaboration with the District Education Department at Thiruvannamalai.
Nandavanam wishes to extend the purview of this venture and would like more people, and perhaps overtime, more cities to come into the fold. It’s message to all our friends in the field of curative education—the child can become a better and more confident human being and can live a fulfilling life, become one of us, associate with us, not by force or by hammering knowledge but by making the child understand his/her inner and outer world. The magical realization would surely and slowly unfold within the child and in turn shall bloom as a world citizen andfeel the belongingness.
…this is their ardent endeavor, and this is their passion at Nandavanam!
Kaleidoscope Learning Centre
Kaleidoscope Learning Centre (KLC) is a unit of V-Excel Educational Trust functioning at Thiruvengadam Street, R. A. Puram, Chennai. Dr. Vasudha Prakash started it in 2001 after receiving a doctorate in special education from the US and after some years of service there. As she wanted to bring quality services to people with special needs, she set up the Academy for Teacher Excellence to train special educators, and KLC was set up as a lab school. Today it has ten units and eight satellite centres in Tamil Nadu as well as Maharashtra.
Its vision is to provide lifespan services across disabilities, for a richer and more meaningful life for the people in its care. The organisation is in the process of creating caring communities comprising of parents, teachers, and caregivers, aiming to reach out to cities and places where these services are not very common. The three centres in Chennai and five centres in the rest of Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra were started for this purpose.
With an aim to focus on the health aspects of the children in its care, it adopted the Waldorf curriculum in 2008. This shift in curriculum resulted in their children’s progress. KLC now has a kindergarten, a grade school for upto grade 8 and a vocational programme that is also therapeutically and hygienically suited to the children in its care.Now there are 71 students in the school programme in KLC unit following curative education. Including the children taking vocational training, this number is about a hundred.There are three therapists, including a senior therapist Lakshmi Sudhakaran.
The work done by KLC can be regarded as social therapy as it involves both the physical and mental well-being of students or children, their parents, siblings, and teachers.
One of the future plans of KLC is to start a programme like that of the Camphill.The principal and a few senior teachers have attended the IPMT for six years. Some teachers are attending the IRA teacher development work. The school psychologist is one of the first certified anthroposophical psychotherapist. The art therapist in the school is doing her training under Sally Martin from Australia.
Some of the teachers serve as faculty or give guest lectures at different training programmes. This organisation has been training regular mainstream schools in inclusion, and in that process have introduced the best practices and principles of curative education and Waldorf teaching process to many schools in many cities for the past seven years.There is a monthly reading circle with the teachers in the school and also with batchmates in IRA training. Group discussions are also conducted within smaller accessible groups.
The interest of the child, capacity building, and therapeutic work are taken care of in KLC under the Waldorf curriculum. The farm programme allows the students to go and spend two days including an overnight stay. Here they work with the earth and also learn life skills of independent living automatically. This programme can be opened to other schools and organisations as KLC has the infrastructure to provide for this kind of training.
Contact: Gita Bhalla, Shashikala Subramaniam, Neha Bharadwaj.
Contact number: 044-24956373; 044- 24620243