Vrindavan, 2017.09.09 (VT): Sadhvi Ritambhara’s Vatsalya Gram ashram in Vrindavan is best known for its unique concept of offering shelter to women and children. The program reinvents the concepts of an orphanage, women’s shelter and old age home, combining them to create a special community where women, unrelated by blood, can live together in family units.
But the ashram also has a school for children with special needs, which is known as Vaishishtyam.
Vaisistyam provides specialised learning for children with Autism, Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, hearing impairments, speech disabilities, mental retardation, learning disabilities and other issues. In addition to academic subjects, the school offers sign language, speech therapy, physiotherapy and pre-vocational training. It also provides recreational classes such as vocal music, art, rollerskating and handball.
Speaking to Vrindavan Today, the Principal of Vaishishtyam Ms. Meenaxi Agrawal said, “The children love learning, and they are also great at sports. Two of our children, Gautam Sonkar and Akash Gaur, recently qualified for the national championships in rollerskating and handball. They are in Lucknow at the moment for the competition.”
Transportation to and from home is provided. But of the approximately 114 children studying at Vaishishtyam, some of them have no home to go to. They were abandoned by their parents in Vatsalya Gram’s “palna” (cradle) – a bed with a window that allows parents in dire straits to abandon their children with complete anonymity. These children live at Vatsalya Gram and are taken care of in every way by the ashram.
Vrindavan resident Jennifer Michael said, “My son is on the Autism spectrum. I don’t know what we would have done without Vaishishtyam. It amazes me that there are facilities in Vrindavan that support families with special children, and many such children come to live in Vrindavan through their hostel facility. I also volunteer with the children of Vaishishtyam teaching them music.
“It’s a real joy to be in their presence. There is something really special about these kids. I learn a lot from them.”
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