We arrived at our second placement on Sunday and we knew right away that there was going to be a lot to explore at this large facility. Amar Seva Sangam Ayikudi truly is what its founders set out to create: a “haven” for the differently abled. Past its gates, you see plenty of wheel chairs, hand-operated bicycles, callipers, people walking or crawling with different gaits and rhythms – essentially, you see people finding their own unique way of getting around independently. It all fits very well with ASSA’s mission statement:
“To empower the disabled citizens by establishing a “Valley for the Disabled” as a Rehabilitation and Development Center for the region and to develop models for self-help initiatives by integrating the disabled individuals with the society for improved living conditions in the Village.”
The compound is six kilometres away from Tenkasi, the nearest city, and is surrounded by a serene landscape of wind turbines, open land, and distant mountains. It being a weekend, things were relatively quiet when we arrived, except for the sudden torrential downpour that lasted about an hour (it is rainy season after all!). After that, we took a quick tour of the facility. We met the children who live at ASSA first, as they congregated for a midday snack and greeted us with smiles and hellos. The children’s home is for those with physical disabilities who live, attend school, and receive physical therapy and ongoing care on site. ASSA also has a hostel for disabled youth and vocational trainees. The Sangam’s several services, however, are open to hundreds of people from the surrounding area that live off-site. These include physical therapy and medical screening, vocational training (we visited the tailoring and handicrafts workshop, the book binding machinery room, the typing workshop and the computer labs), an integrated primary and middle school for children with and without physical challenges in the area, and the newly constructed School for Special Children attended by 50 children in the area. This is all in addition to the field work done by ASSA in its several neighbouring villages. With all of that and a small dairy farm on the premises, it was a lot to see in one tour!
Since then, we’ve had quite a busy week and have tons to share with you! We’ll be updating the blog over the next few days with the details so stay tuned.