Hi everyone! I cannot believe that I am finally in India. It is surreal to think that I traveled on my own to a country that is thousands of miles away from home. Somehow I managed to figure out the traveling process on my own. It gave me a perspective on what my parents must constantly deal with while traveling as a family. It was difficult for me to take care of myself while traveling, and I can’t begin to imagine having to take care of a whole family. Although I managed, to say the process was stressful would be an understatement. There were times when I thought I was going to explode and yell at everyone around me, especially in Mumbai with the sweltering heat and hundreds of bodies crammed together anxious to get aboard the plane. However, that was the only part of my journey that wasn't luxurious. I was completely surprised at the airport when I found out that I would be flying executive class. Thank you Mom and Dad! It was fabulous. The journey was so comfortable and smooth. I couldn't have been happier with the flight.
I finally arrived in Hyderabad around 3 a.m. and was thrilled to be greeted by Ammama (Grandmother), Babi Mama (Uncle), and Nalin (Cousin). They graciously waited for three hours at the airport because my flight was delayed. I can't thank them enough for that. Seeing familiar faces after such a long journey was priceless. We took a long drive back to Ammama's house. After greeting Thata (Grandfather), I slept for about three hours and then it was straight to work when I woke up. I came to India not only to spend time with my family, but also to volunteer at the Sweekar-Upkaar foundation in Secunderabad. Sweekar helps middle and lower class families with children who have learning, speech, physical, or mental handicaps. So this morning, Ammama and I went to the foundation and took a detailed tour of every department. It was an absolutely riveting experience. In America, it would not have been possible to get such a detailed look of the occurrences in a hospital, and to have an uncensored view of everything was really eye opening. As clichéd as it sounds, being exposed to such things is a very humbling experience. It makes you thankful for all the simple things that we generally take for granted. It also made me appreciate the remarkable things accomplished by such organizations. They are able to provide health care and schooling to families for free. The people who work here are compassionate and patient and they never give up hope for these children. They constantly work with them until they show improvement, and that patience and sheer passion for what they are doing is something I admire. Today I had the chance to work in the Center for Learning Disabilities. I spent the first hour talking to the staff there about the things they do and was absolutely fascinated. I took detailed notes on what methods they use to help children with learning disabilities and have listed them below:
1. Center for Learning Disabilities (CLD)
• 12-14% of children in India have a learning disability.
• The CLD goes to various schools and identifies children who have academic difficulties.
• They are brought to the CLD for one on one attention so that they can
• The students achieve academic improvement through sight, speech, sense, and writing.
2. Different Skills taught to students and the methods used to achieve them
• Spelling and Differentiating between letters
• Sand writing. The coarseness of the sand that gently pricks their hand stimulates nerve in the brain that improves their spelling.
• Far Point Writing- Copying words and sentences from a board to paper
• Near Point Writing- Copying words and sentences from a book to paper
• Difficulty differentiating between b+d, p+q, 6+9, and m+n. Thumb Method. A thumbs up on your left hand is a lowercase "b" and a thumbs up on your right hand is a lowercase "d".
• Window Therapy- Ask children to read something. Teacher covers this passage with palm and they are asked to reproduce it.
4. Hand grip for Writing
• Sponge Therapy- Children dip a sponge in water and they squeeze and release the sponge in order to improve their hand power and pencil grip.
• Clay Therapy- kneading of clay and playing with clay in order to improve grip on
pencils, sharpeners, and erasers. This stimulates and exercises their fingers so that they can write better.
• Puzzles. According to age. 3-5=Alphabet and 5+= More difficult puzzles.
• Mix grains and they must separate them into color shape and texture.
• String of beads. Beads of same size and different color mixed up in a bowl. Children must place them on string grouped by colors.
6. Hand Eye Coordination
• Dribbling a ball.
• Throwing marbles into a bowl.
• Checkered Net- must place Lego like toys into a checkered net. Focus and concentration tested.
3. Peer Activities and Socializing
• Sensory Park- outdoor park where they play games. Peer social skills etc. They must obey and follow orders and patterns.
It is one thing to hear about these many methods but to see the children do them and improve while doing so is amazing. This is what I experienced today while watching them work and actually helping them today. It was a great feeling to witness their smiles and joy when they finally understood something or grasped a concept. Overall, I know that volunteering at Sweekar will be a life changing experience. Being a part of such a great organization that helps so many is an honor and I know that it will have an immense impact on me.
In addition to all the hard work I will be doing here, I am sure that I am going to have a blast. Whether it's spending time at the Secunderabad club with Nalin or just chatting with Ammama, I know that this trip will be very memorable and I am excited to document it all on this blog!