My name is Kavita Samuel and I live in New Delhi, India. I volunteered with REWA from the 30th of October 2017 until the 13th of November 2017. I had worked as an English teacher in Ladakh before changing over to Special Education. After becoming a special educator and working in Manali for about 4 years I decided to look out for an opportunity to work with children with special needs in Ladakh as well.
Volunteering at REWA was a different experience for me. The REWA centre is beautiful and well planned. It had more equipment than I knew possible. The staff were kind and warm towards me. While I was there, my duty was to help start the process of setting up a special education wing. It was interesting to come up with ideas along with the team. Special Education has many myths surrounding it and my goal there was to help them ask the right questions before setting up anything.
Spending time with the children was very rewarding. This was the first time I was in a centre with children who had almost 90% disabilities and impairments. I have also not worked with children with such severe levels of cerebral palsy. It was both interesting for me as well as for the team to take a new look at understanding how children with CP may understand.
I worked along with Mr. Dorjey to set goals for an educative centre, planning the sequence that needed to be put into place and getting a fair idea of the children, they were planning for. We also met with the parents of these children to discuss behaviour management strategies that they can practice at home, helping the parents understand that bad behaviour is not always a consequence of the disability, learning to lovingly disciple and encourage. This was a good time, and the parents were very receptive.
I also spent time talking to the parents about how our duty is to teach, encourage and build up our children, not to decide what they can and cannot do. My goal was to start the process of breaking the myth that children with such severe levels of impairments cannot understand anything. We talked on the different ways we show our response, how not to limit ourselves to the obvious.
We planned a temporary schedule that incorporated physio sessions, special education as well as play time for the children. It worked well the first week, minus the expected ups and downs.
I worked along with Mrs. Padma, a parent volunteer, to teach children with special needs. We looked at what our starting point should be? Is it necessary to start with A B C? What do we want to achieve? It was interesting to get her and the team to break away from the norm. I was also able to come up with some group games, the children could play together at the end of their day in the centre. We played games that helped them identify emotions, concentrate, run, imitate actions and sounds, etc.
My time at the centre was only enough to break the ice with the children and the team. It was a great time, I learnt a lot and I got to experience a new level of Special needs! I have come back with lots to think through.