Activities of Asha Niketan Kolkata
Asha Niketan seeks to bring to the centre of our society intellectually and physically challenged persons, who are usually banished to the fringes. The following programmes have evolved in Asha Niketan, Kolkata, as a response to the issue of the mentally and physically challenged persons.
There is at present 15 persons with mental handicaps residing in the two buildings owned by Asha Niketan, Kolkata. Of them 2 who are below 18 years of age go to a well known special school. The other 13 residential members are participants in the Vocational Programme and work regularly in the community workshops. The general standards of care are high and good psychological and medical support is provided.
The vocational training units/ sheltered workshops are an essential element of the life of Asha Niketan. Work is an integral part of society enabling the exchange of resources, human and material, as well as a forum of creativity and relationship. Many of our members had grown up with a negative self image and were seen as a burden and a problem; they have often been left out of decision- making, of creative activities, and of responsibility for themselves and their family. For our members with a disability this opportunity to ‘work’ gives them an opportunity to secure the dignity of creative and valued work and to be a functional part of society and family, e.g. taking home a small incentive payment and so having the chance to contribute to the family income, to purchase articles for self or as gifts for others. The knowledge that others purchase the product they are making helps affirm their self worth and therefore has therapeutic effect.
Day Care Program
Started in 1996, this program supports 20 children through individual development programs, including physiotherapy and medical/psychological support, as well as family support and counselling. All the children covered by the Day Care Program come from the nearby economically and socially deprived neighborhood. Lunch and refreshments are provided to each child in the Day Care Centre.
Out Reach Program
A neighbourhood survey has helped to identify a number of children with severe physical and mental handicaps whose family circumstances do not permit them to attend our Day Care Centre. Through the Outreach program our assistants visit these families every week, providing support and training in life and social skills, personal care and communication skills. The assistants also facilitate access to services and help develop networks with key stakeholders. The Out Reach core members are also invited on special occasions to the Day Care centre in Asha Niketan. This is an evolving Community Based Rehabilitation Program. At present 16 families are covered by this initiative.
Social and leisure activities, music and drama performances, art sessions, craft melas, and the like attract media coverage and help to promote awareness in the immediate neighbourhood as well as in Kolkata city. An exhibition of paintings by our gifted artist- members with mental handicap, held in the prestigious Academy of Fine Arts, Kolkata, was widely reported in the electronic and print media. At the L’Arche International General Assembly in 2008 – held for the first time outside Europe and America – core members of Asha Niketan, Kolkata presented cultural programs which were highly appreciated. Their performance at the public meeting in the Rabindra Bharati campus addressed by Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal and by Dr. Jean Vanier founder of L’Arche was particularly noteworthy. Programs are also held in nearby schools and clubs to promote awareness of the gifts of our members with mental handicaps and to improve relationships with the neighbourhood.