By Elaine O’ Leary
Just one week to go. The Association of People with Disabilities (APD) is such a varied placement with lots of different centres, that it feels like we are just getting to know everyone & now we are leaving. I feel we have got to grips with how to assist in Early Intervention & other programs aimed at helping children to develop the skills & competencies they need to move onto school – in mainstream schools or schools such as SIS in APD where there is an 80:20 ratio of kids with disabilities to those without. We have worked in the outreach centres in urban communities & in the APD main campus. This helped us to understand better the resources & barriers to facilitating inclusive education in India. We engaged in activities to develop fine motor skills, interspersed with fun activities like making balloon animals, playing swoosh ball, learning songs & rhymes. We also painted the children’s faces. Selma (one of the parents) treated us to mahani – the traditional Indian henna hand tattoos which women have painted on their hands for festivals & family events. Amula who organises therapies & training asked us to give talks to parents and others about activities & play that they can engage in to improve fine motor skills as well as tips for positive behaviour and motivation management. I was very impressed by the level of interest and engagement of the mothers, fathers & grandparents of the children. They asked a lot of questions & took pictures & videos so that they could replicate the activities at home.
After last weekends trip to Mysore we had a lot of development education work & prep to catch up on for next week. We have been so busy & active that thoughts of this experience coming to an end were put to the back of my mind. I will miss the other volunteers & especially the kids in APD. They are so excited to see us & love drama, songs & games & our own Irish brand of craic seems to go down well with all. I especially will miss the tea. Babu the tea man knows just how much sugar milk & spice the tea coffee & chai drinkers like and he will find you to give you your caffeine fix no matter where on the campus you are! We have great tea-time & lunchtime chats with the staff who give us advice on the right colour bindi to wear with a sari & which regional dishes are best to eat in Bangalore. The Ulsoor staff even dressed our hair on Friday with flowers and acessorised us Indian style for a birthday dinner for Sr. Rose in Sumanahalli. Aoife & I are so grateful for the welcome & openess we have been given by all we meet in APD. We will visit a rural project next week so we won’t see some of the staff & students again before we go. The goodbyes have started already – as this fantastic adventure is coming to an end.