Chennai Trust rehabilitates mentally challenged children

By A Harsha Vardhan Published on Jul 24, 2018 01:34 PM IST

Chennai: The greatest challenge for an organisation dealing with mentally challenged children is to find a way to integrate them into the society as they grow up and become an adult.

“The best way to do it would be to switch from a welfare organisation model to an empowerment model and teach special children essential life skills that they can use to make a living and take care of themselves,” says Sri Arunodayam Trust founder Iyyappan Subramanian.

342 NOT OUT

Iyyappan started Sri Arunodayam Home for Mentally Challenged Destitute under the trust's name in 2003 with just one child.

Today, as per their official records, Iyyappan says the trust has rehabilitated 342 mentally challenged children.

Talking about Sri Arunodayam Home, Iyyappan says, “At present, we are taking care of 122 children - 80 boys and 32 girls in separate facilities as per government mandate, in Kolathur.

We are one among the very few Government of India recognised reception centres in Tamilnadu for orphaned mentally challenged children.”

“Most of the children who come to us were abandoned by their parents in public spaces like hospitals, temples, railway station or bus stands because of their mental disabilities.

The government also sends us children from their Thottil Kuzhandhai Thittam. The child welfare committee, child helpline and the police identify these children and leave them in our care,” says Iyyappan.

UNITING CHILDREN WITH PARENTS

“But not all children who come to us are abandoned. Some of them are lost children. So, our first priority is to identify the parents and try to hand over the children back to them,” says Iyyappan.

“But for parents who willfully abandoned the children due to their mental condition and reasons like economic problems, we try to provide them counselling and reunite them with their children.”

So far the trust has traced and handed over more than 100 mentally challenged children back to the parents and supports them in raising these children.

LIFE OF SERVICE

The 36-year-old bachelor has now dedicated his life for the cause of raising orphaned mentally challenged children through the trust he started when he was just 22. But it was a personal tragedy that made him chose this life of service.

“My brother was also mentally challenged and he passed away when I was young and I wanted to do something for children like my brother having the same condition.”

“So, I came to Chennai and researched about them for two years. I saw many special children abandoned and fighting for survival on the roads. That is when I decided to start the home and slowly many children found refuge here,” Iyyappan says recalling the Sri Arunodayam Trust's origins.

Last year, an international organisation- World of Children presented Iyyappan with the Humanitarian of the Year award which includes around $85,000 money which he donated fully for the construction of the separate home for mentally challenged girls.

“My aim is to start another 'After Care Home' for mentally challenged above the age of 18 and I'm working towards that goal now. I have sold my land in my native village to build the home,” he says, still wanting to help more for the cause of the mentally challenged.

VOCATIONAL TRAINING

Iyyappan says that the best way to help the mentally challenged is to teach them life skills that they can use to take care of their own needs including economic needs for being independent in the society.

“So, I've been working to empowering them to become a sustainable value in the society. I've been imparting them different skills and training them for small jobs. We started a vocational training centre and use their skills to manufacture various products like paper bags, sanitary products, fancy items like keychains. In order to make the home self-sufficient, our children are helping us run our day-to-day activities like kitchen and house-keeping. We also buy products like napkins, and bags that our children make for us.”

'On 11 July we opened a small display at our home where people can come see what they have made and buy them. A few corporate offices have evinced interest to buy their products now,' says Iyyappan

SPECIAL MOM AWARD

Raising a special child is a very difficult task. So, to recognise the parents who overcome great difficulties to raise these children, Sri Arunodayam Home has started the Special Mom Award.

"This was started on our 15th year of operation and 15 moms were selected and given special mom award and inducted into the special mom forum. We remain in constant touch with them and help them by conducting training programmes like epilepsy management, informing them about government schemes and subsidies and so on. Through them, we wish to raise more awareness among other parents that they too can raise the special children and all it takes is a little extra love," says Iyyappan.

Iyyappan Subramaniyan can be reached at 9444915803.