Bhopal: The SOS Children’s Village at Khajuri Kalan village, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, belonging to SOS Children’s Villages of India, the country’s largest childcare NGO is dedicated to the welfare of the children who have lost or at the risk of losing parental care. The Children’s Village has emerged as a successful model for providing ‘Group Foster Care’, the de-institutionalized family-like care for children with autism and other physical and mental challenges.
The Children’s Village Khajuri Kalan is raising over a hundred children with autism and other disabilities, in an exclusively designed infrastructure to cater to the unique developmental needs of these children and youth, ensuring round the clock holistic care for them by trained staff.
Talking about the Children’s Village at Khajuri Kalan, while participating in a virtual session on “Child-care for children who are #BornSpecial”, organised by SOS Children’s Villages of India in connection with the World Autism Awareness Day, 2021, Sumanta Kar, its Secretary General, said that with one in 68 children being diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) globally, a scalable model of early diagnosis and intervention is important to make sure that these children gain opportunities for their social participation and lead a meaningful life.
SOS Children’s Village Khajuri Kalan, Bhopal started functioning in 2004. It is located at a sprawling 71 acres of land. It is one of the biggest establishments in India dedicated to the needs of Children with Disability. The Children’s Village is designed to provide loving homes, medical care, education and training children and young people with disabilities. Living facilities for children have been specially adapted for the children. All rooms including the bathrooms, have been designed for children in wheelchairs or with walking aids.
Kar informed: “Currently we have 104 children including youth who are living with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, and Multiple Disabilities. Out of all children, 18 boys and 58 girls are living in the Children’s Village and 28 youths are in the youth house. The Children’s Village consists of 14 Family Houses, a girls’ facility and a Youth Home; having children under the loving care of 14 SOS mothers, 13 aunts and 3 mother trainees. It is a project for long-term care, rehabilitation, and training and allied services for developmentally challenged children.”
He reiterated that coming from diverse circumstances, children here need focused and customized attention to support them in their growth, and help them get integrated into the mainstream of life. The Children’s Village houses several winners of Special Olympic events held in 2015 in Los Angeles, 2017 in Austria, and 2019 in Abu Dhabi. “Children between the age group 6 to 18 years are given an opportunity to realize their potential and enhance their learning through specialized training in our special activity centre and also in family homes. Children are provided functional and special education in a Special activity centre,” he said.
The children who fall under borderline and mild category attend the local schools and SOS Hermann Gmeiner middle school situated in SOS Children’s Village Bhopal campus. About 50 children are enrolled in a special education programme under the NGO’s own special activity centre. Around 25 intellectually disabled children are enrolled in different levels of the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) exams.
The rehabilitation of special children consists of skill development and vocational training of children. An indoor vocational training centre has been introduced in SOS Children’s Village Khajuri Kalan. Children are taught vocational skills in the packaging of grocery materials and stitching, block-printing, rakhi, envelope and candle making. A Vocational Training Centre was specially set up for those who are unable to face the challenges of the outside world. Further, agriculture and horticulture-related training is given to 28 young boys and girls who are keen to work close to nature, learn and take up a vocation in horticulture. Farming and Dairy Training programmes are also conducted to educate the youth about farm operations.
Kar added that Village has physiotherapy, speech therapy, hydrotherapy and occupational therapy units apart from the special school inside the complex to extend individualized support to our children. There is a farm and a dairy unit where children are encouraged to participate, which has a therapeutic effect on their development.
The virtual session saw the participation of SOS Mothers, the trained caregivers, sharing their insights into taking care of the needs of the specially-abled children and the training they received to excel at their roles. World Autism Awareness Day falls on April 2 every year. For 2021, the theme is ‘Inclusion in the Workplace: Challenges and Opportunities in a Post-Pandemic World’.