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Monday, August 30, 2010

A Tour of Amar Jyoti!

During our short stay at Amar Jyoti, we learned about the plethora of services it provides and got to know some of its amazing staff members. In the Medical Building, we spent time in the prosthetics department, the physiotherapy department, the medical outpatient clinic, and the colourful occupational therapy department. Amar Jyoti has a school for physiotherapy and its PT students help to run the department on site, which serves a number of outpatients from the community as well as some of the students who attend the integrated school. AJ also provides training programs for special education teaching. On a given afternoon, the occupational therapy department was usually full of children being guided through exercises and games by their parents, the occupational therapist, and her student. The room is an inviting place for children and adults alike. While most of the people they treat are children with congenital physical limitations, they also treat adults with acquired disabilities such as following a stroke. The OT showed us some of the ways in which they counsel their clients, including how to make the home a safer place and how to modify everyday tools, such as cutlery, to make them easier to use.

In the medical outpatient department, we followed different physicians each day, from an assortment of specialties, who volunteered their time to see patients in the drop-in clinic. The facility has longstanding relationships with private and public hospitals in the area and makes referrals regularly. They have an operating room, a pathology lab and an imaging department on site. They serve as a great primary point of care for people in the community who are unable to or fearful of visiting larger hospitals.

Across from the medical building, on the other site of the basketball court and playground, is the Integrated School. This place completely embodies the idea of fully inclusive education. Not only is the building physically accessible to all (there is no floor that isn’t accessible by ramps and the floors are texturized to help guide their blind students), but the students learn in a way that embraces their individual talents and promotes equality and mutual respect. We observed a classroom full of children who were both deaf and blind as they learned ways to communicate; we saw mature students attend classes in the computer lab; we also saw students with varying levels of physical ability learn and play alongside one another.

We were given a real treat when the students of the school put on a special show just for us! It was an integrated dance number full of flips and tricks that the team performed on the TV show India’s Got Talent (just like the one in the US). Once the music started and they began their performance, smiling throughout, it did not matter which child had or did not have a physical disability. The students danced together and it was an absolute delight to watch!

Amar Jyoti also helps to empower adults in the community through its several vocational training programs. They have an aesthetician course, a textiles and bag-making department, a jewellery making shop, a carpentry department, IT training, and a bakery. Sometimes, when a child at the integrated school shows an interest in learning a particular trade, they can be found spending some time at the departments, practicing the skills hands-on.

As our visit neared its end, we were so thankful to Dr. Uma Tuli, the founder of Amar Jyoti, and all of the other staff members at AJ that made us feel so welcome and taught us all about their work. They also exposed us to some things off campus, like organizing a visit to a massive new private hospital and sending us out for a day of shopping at the famous Delhi Haat outdoor bazaar that featured souvenirs from every state in India.

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