Saturday, August 11, 2007

Saturdays at Prabartak Home

Originally uploaded by dalbhat
Not far from my home in Salt Lake, there is a government-run home for people with epilepsy and other disabilities and every Saturday my friend Rosalie does a two-hour class there. Her class is not an English class but an amalgamation of all sorts of learning to get the children involved and interacting, and gaining a new understanding of the world around them and far beyond.

In 1999, Rosalie, an American speech therapist spent her summer vacation vounteering at one of Mother Teresa's orphanages in Kolkata. She was schocked that disabled children were left in their cribs all day or on the floor without any stimulation or educational opportunity whatsoever. Without hesitation, Roasalie took an early retirement from the New Jersey Public School System and returned to Kolkata to develop the special education programs these children required!

Rosalie now runs Empower the Children , an organization which gives formal structure to the work on-the-ground in Kolkata. ETC works to provide security and opportunity to Kolkata's most vulnerable children, including the disadvantaged and disabled children living on the streets and in the slums-- for whom basic needs are often beyond the financial capabilities of their families.

I am so happy to have Rosalie, and her surge of ever-expanding good ideas, here in Kolkata on the NGO front. Visiting her class at Prabartak Home, one of the eight ETC projects, is always a great source of inspiration for me as a teacher...and as a human being.

Today we learned about elephants -- those majestic gray mammals that roam the West Bengal forests. Rosalie had a beautiful plasticene elephant to show to everyone and some photographs of elephants in their natural habitat. These were passed around as she talked about their LARGENESS and their ROUGH skin and how they sometimes do WORK in forests. She told them how the mother and baby walk - with the baby holding the tail and each student got up to try this with a friend. She talked about how elephants actually walk on their tippy-toes...and then all the students gave it a try. They all tried throwing inflatable hoops on an inflatable elephant. Taking part in the class and having a turn at each topic is a big part of the class and everyone (rightfully) gets excited. Each class ends with a craft and often the components of the craft have been prepared by students in schools in the US as part of a volunteer program (Rosalie likes TOTAL involvement!).

Today each student got a cute little cardboard elephant. First they glued on the rough skin (a swatch of paper that had elephant skin on it); then they added a swatch of fabric that was the elephant's blanket; lastly, they added the head dress (some tassles). The craft requires motor skill coordination and a fresher on things that were presented in the lesson.

Classes usually end with a lot of music and dancing - and hugging!

She has an excellent class on teeth and Tibet also!

Good luck to Rosalie for all that you do. I hope that our collaborative efforts will also be successful.

No comments: