All is Grace!

I met these 3 amazing boys at the Sahaspur learning center.

All three on wheelchairs, all in their early teens and the best of friends…

one of them had had a fall about two years back and because of a spinal cord injury is on the wheelchair.

The other two have muscular dystrophy with at least one of them very clearly aware of what lies in store for him.

Even so, they laugh, sing, weep, dance, cheer each other on …LIVE!

They will probably pack in more in their ‘what-is’ than what I will ever pack into my ‘what-will-be’.

Once in a while…just once in a while, I stop planning for the future to pay attention to the present.

And all three of them showed me how…

To soak in every moment that is soaked by Grace!

Life as a series of nows…

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Advocacy workshop with a difference!!!! (17th -20th April 2013)

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Last week I conducted a Disabled peoples’ group training in Sahaspur near Herbertpur, Uttarakhand. Looking back, over the last 3 years I have conducted about 35 workshops all over north India with about 1000 participants. But to my surprise this workshop was totally different from my earlier ones, mainly because the participants themselves were different from others. And it was these differences that made the workshop one of the most interesting I’ve run and, while exhausting, also quite fun.

The participants were living with varying levels of disability, mostly orthopedic. That in itself didn’t make too much difference, except perhaps to the types of group games we could do together (shifting chairs quickly for ‘Spare Chair’ wasn’t really possible).  The bigger difference was earlier I addressed participants who were NGO workers many of whom would be 12th pass at least but this time it was folks with lower levels of education which in turn means that their attention was for shorter span. In order to get the attention of my participants I had to change my style of workshop like changing activity every 45 minutes. Further, since the literacy levels were lower than other groups, I needed to keep the level of text down a little. Both of these adjustments weren’t too difficult to make but it gave a confirmation to my belief that “participation is a key to people’s learning”. It made sure getting people involved through questions, role plays and many such activities provides a reasonable chance for learning, regardless of how educated they are. I believe the best part of the workshop which the participants especially thoroughly enjoyed was the role play pretending to be government officers and making all sort of excuses why they couldn’t grant various benefits to people! I enjoyed it too.

This workshop made me realize the importance of making an advocacy manual with simpler documents which will be user friendly for folks with less education like DPOs, CBOs and SHGs. Over the next few months I would like to work on that.

Now the challenge for the Anugrah project over the coming years will be gradually reducing the amount of input they usually give to the groups so that they can steadily become more independent. Thanks to everyone there for an interesting few days.

Mark Delany

Program Manager, Advocacy

 

About reporting meetings………..

I was thinking about the Annual reporting meeting coming up next month. One of us will stand up and talk about what we had planned, what we achieved, what went well, what were the difficulties. We will present numbers of people with disabilities we helped with disability certificates, disability pension, in getting wheelchairs, in getting corrective surgeries done etc. To most people, they will only be figures on a table, numbers on a spreadsheet.

But for those of us who work them, these numbers have faces; they have names; they have their own stories. They are individuals who have shared their space with us and we have become richer in the process. So, if you ask me, we will continue to be involved even if we are able to share the story of only one person. How can numbers capture the immeasurable something that we leave behind in each other’s lives?

 So those of you labouring over reports, be encouraged! Only heaven will reveal the impact of what you do. Till then, let us not become weary…

‘And let us not lose heart and grow weary and faint in acting nobly and doing right, for in due time and at the appointed season we shall reap, if we do not loosen and relax our courage and faint.’ Gal. 6:9 (Amp).

Jubin Varghese

INCLUSION- Is it a choice?

Someone stopped me recently to ask about what the hype was about ‘mainstreaming’, ‘inclusion’, integration’. I got caught in the mire of terms and definitions and while I was attempting to capture the differences in the nuances, I got thinking about the mothers I have had the privilege to meet with. They will probably never hear these terms but they practice these every day.

Whether I choose to feed my child with a disability the same food as my other children – is that even a choice? Whether I choose to dress her the same way as I dress my other girls – is that a choice? Whether I hold my baby, bring her out, share the story of Jesus as I would do with my other children – is there a choice there? Like I said earlier, these mothers may never know the terms ‘mainstreaming’ and ‘inclusion’ but in caring for their child every day, do they not practice it? Isn’t inclusion and mainstreaming only fancy terms for welcoming, loving acceptance? If that is true, then do we have a choice about inclusion?

I don’t claim it to be easy…I don’t want to sugar-coat the everyday struggle of caring for the children but these mothers all assure me that they would not exchange the experience for anything else. Giving up on the child, giving the child away is not an option. If then we are the family of God, how can we ‘discard’ those in our family who are ‘different’? Oh! I know that none of us Christians actually reject those with disabilities. In fact weren’t we the first to care for them? But are we also not the happiest when we care for them with special programs? Would we welcome them to our family room, our churches, Sunday schools and talk, preach and share with their different abilities in mind? Would we want to share the same spiritual food with them as with the others even if it meant that we would have to go slower than usual or is that too much work? Would that stop me if it was my child we were talking about? Is inclusion, then, a choice?

We forget that what all these terms mean is that we may have different abilities, different viewpoints, different stories but we come together not to make me more like you or the other way round. Rather, we come together for an enriched, new perspective. You change me as much as I change you. You minister to me as I minister to you and we are both transformed in the process. Most parents refer to how having the child with different needs has changed them, made their life slower, yes, but richer! Will we choose to welcome those with different abilities, backgrounds in our midst knowing that we will be richer in the process? Or are we more comfortable referring to them as ‘special groups’, good to be seen with but not worthy of being heard, of being in communion with? Is inclusion a choice?

I am reminded of 1 Corinthians 12 as I write this…about how we are all part of the same body…all the different parts, the presentable and the not-so-honored, the weaker parts. ‘But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another’ (12: 24, 25). I am reminded of a song called “If we are the body’ by Casting Crowns:

“But if we are the Body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?”

Woodstock students CARE

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IMG_9226_newLast semester, 9 Woodstock students boldly stepped out into unfamiliar territory, developing relationships with disabled children in villages within 1 1/2 hours of Woodstock’s campus.  Armed with a good dose of compassion, curiosity, and a desire to make a difference, the 10th-12th graders found themselves warmly welcomed into the homes and lives of families who, with scarcely limited information and resources, struggle to provide for their disabled children, yet are eager to learn from and welcome those who come offering dignity and hope.

A new semester of CARE visits with the Samvedna project start tomorrow!  We look forward to seeing the bright, smiling faces of the children whose lives have impacted ours and whose courage in the face of adversity has inspired us all!

Melinda Snader, Occupational Therapist