Aastha Initiatives: Help a child, Help a Cause.
As we traveled different parts of India this fall, we made it a point to help underprivileged/unfortunate children or institution in India as a part of our project , ' Help a child, help a cause'.
Being a small organization,our funds are limited. We tried to help a child and tried to donate to organizations who help others.
Our first objective is to help the Autistic kids.
In order to do so, we wanted to interact with few Autistic kids. Talk to their Families , specially Parents.
Spending some time with them was very important to us.
One thing I like about any 'Autistic person' is, they tend to be frank, honest and matter of fact. Some people may interpret this as blunt or rude. They don’t intend to offend you by not sugar coating the things that they say.
We went to meet 'Riju' first.
Riju knows us very well, as we have been interacting with him from few years.
Riju is an Auistic kid. He is slow and is 7 years behind his age in mental development
While growing up, his parents realized he is not like any other kid. They took him to Bangalore NIMHANS several times.
Over the years Riju has developed few other medical ailments.
His eye sight is diminishing to the point where he is totally blind in one eye. He can barely see in the other eye where he had surgery several times and need to wear two contact lenses.
When we went to see him, he was wearing a sun glass because couple of days back this cornea had burst and the liquid came out turning his eyes blue.
Riju loves music. He knows the lyrics by heart and was singing any song that I sang. He is a loving and adorable kid.
Dipankan, who is a MD,PhD student in Yale medical school, thinks, the term 'Autistic' is little vague. He wanted to know what Riju is suffering from in medical terms.
While he was checking all the medical reports, we were playing with Riju.
Prithy, a undergraduate from UC Davis, a Taekwondo champion , a 3rd degree black belt, an Taekwondo Instructor as well. He taught numerous kids over few years in 'Golden State Taekwondo, California'.
Riju was comfortable to learn some Taekwondo tricks from him.
It was fun to watch him do some exercises. Every body was trying to help him learn.
To watch the video, click here.
Taekwondo is a form of martial arts. It helps kids and adults to focus, develops persistence, self-discipline and kindness.
Since one of the key features of Autistic kids is lack of focus, we wanted to give an emphasis on Taekwondo practice. It is one of our another major objective to spread the awareness as how 'Taekwondo helps Autism.
Since Riju loves music, he would ask me to sing. He starts singing when I sing.
Music has a potential to assist in the learning of daily routines.
One of our future project is to help Autistic Kids with Music.
To see Pictures of Riju, please click Here
We then went to meet Kaushik, a 22 year old Autistic kid.
We spent some time with him.
To watch the video, click here
It was a pleasure to talk to him. As he said, he used to go to a special school and studied, learnt karate, but now he does not remember.
One thing told us is, he loves to take pictures and he took some pictures of us from our camera.
He loves music.
When I sang for him, he was listening to the whole song very eagerly.
Research shows rhythmic input can improve motor functioning and overall growth in areas such as cognition, behavior, social skills, and communication.
One of the goals and objective of Aastha Initiatives is to spread the awareness of the effects of music on autism.
To see Pictures of Kaushik, please click Photos
Visit to the Orphanage of Ramkrishna Vivekananda Mission
We then continued our journey and went to visit an orphanage.
It was in Barrackpore, Ramakrishna Vivekananda mission. It was a festive season. The largest festival in Calcutta is 'Durga Puja' which is worshiping the Goddess Durga, symbol of 'Power' or 'Shakti'.
We were extremely happy to distribute chocolates to those orphans. A monitory contribution was also made on behalf of 'Aastha Initiatives'.
Ramkrishna Vivekananda Mission maintains 1325 orphan and destitute children including deaf and mute , blind and distressed women. They have been working for the development of the Children of the sex workers, slum children and children from the backward classes of the society.There were 11208 students enrolled in different educational institution ran by the mission.
Next day we had gone for the 'Puja' or 'Offerrings' in the mission.in front of Goddess Durga.
A musical performance was held
To see Pictures, please click Photos
Bansberia Rural Development
Next and our final destination was to visit ' Bansberia Rural Development'
Dr. Sakti Das, who is one of the advisers of 'Aastha Initiatives' has dedicated his life towards welfare of the mankind. He has been associated with numerous non profit organizations. 'Bansberia Rural Development', a Registered Voluntary Organization, is working under the guidance and continuous support from Dr. Sakti Das.
Since Dr. Das had sent some toothbrushes for the kids with us, we decided to visit the place ourselves and help them as much as we can.
It is in a remote village near Diamond Harbor.
Initially we thought of carrying some chocolates and sweets for the kids, but later decided to give some monetary contribution and distribute notebooks/other stationary among the kids.
Needless to say, that was the happiest day of our entire India trip.
We felt blessed and honored to be able to become a part of this project.
We packed 200 notebooks, pencils, erasers, sharpeners, rulers for 200 kids and started in the morning.
Mr. Jayanta Halder, who is in charge of this project, welcomed us. Mrs Sarvani Halder, Secretary and other teachers greeted us after we reached the center.
Breakfast was served although we were not hungry.
We wanted to interact with the kids, wanted to talk to them.
Initially they were shy. When we started to sing , play with them, slowly they opened up. They started talking and interacting with us.
We played with them, talked to them, sang to them, heard them sing , spent the entire day with them.
Check the Video
Dipankan and Prithanjan, Taekwondo champions, demonstrated some Taekwondo and Judo tricks to them. It was a pleasure to make them smile. They giggled, they laughed, most of all they enjoyed and had fun.
Yummy lunch was served at noon, cooked by the teachers and volunteers. We sat with them and ate with them. It was the best meal ever.
In the afternoon, a free dispensary was held. We met the doctor who has been serving there for many years. Dr. Sakti Das had provided free medicines to the villagers. Dipankan, examined some patients as well.
To View the pictures Click Photos
We then visited the homes of few villagers , where 'Sarees' were designed with stones. Beautiful art work , made/hand woven by a self help group under 'Bansberia Rural Development.' 7-8 women created them and trying to sell them. This is their only way to support the family.
We held a saree exhibition in January 2013 and trying to raise funds for these women. We wanted to help them sell because if we do not help them, they will be exploited , because people buys them at a very low cost.
To view the photos of the sarees designed by the village women, click here
We had to say them goodbye as we would be flying back to US next day.
We could not give them much, but we took lot of good memories from them and pure joy of course.
We Thank You Dr. Sakti Das and those who spend ceaseless time for the benefit of others.
Our journey begins here. It is the start, miles to go...