Learning with a difference
Disha Shah 25 August 2011

ChildRaise Trust is committed to the empowerment of children with special needs and adults with disabilities

In 1984, Kavita Shanbhag, a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) employee, suffered a fit of epilepsy on the delivery table. Two years later, when she conceived her second child, it happened again. With a third attack in 1992, she enrolled with an epilepsy support group called Sanman. Meanwhile, she realised that her son had a muscle motor coordination problem. Wanting to help him, she took a year’s leave and studied for a BEd in special education.

The experience opened up a new world altogether. She had to run from pillar to post to find information on epilepsy and dysgraphia. But her efforts paid off, enabling her to help her son at the initial stage. This hardship motivated her to start an NGO, ChildRaise Trust (CRT). On 3 December 2001, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, she launched CRT’s website with funding from Unity Infraprojects Pvt Ltd. Running its operations from home, the information she had collected over the years on cross disability was uploaded on this portal.   

To reach housewives, she compiled and published a book Journey to Empowerment: A Roadmap for Special Children in 2004, with the help of English Edition Publishers. Today, CRT provides information on epilepsy, cerebral palsy, autism and physical disabilities. It is a roadmap committed to the empowerment of children with special needs, adults with disabilities and parents. “My focus is on providing information to parents for early intervention,” says
Ms Shanbhag, who is also a managing trustee of CRT. She says, “Many children who come to me are in class one or two and they have such acute problems of cross disability that they can’t decode alphabets or even three-letter words.”

Making parents aware that there is a website on multiple disabilities was a task because the usage of the Internet was limited back then. Ms Shanbhag took voluntary retirement from RBI in 2007 to devote her time to CRT. Since therapists can’t provide life-long support and the cost of treatment is high, CRT aims at providing subsidised help. Liaising with other NGOs as its knowledge partners, CRT provides remedial education. “When we feel a child needs advanced help, we guide the parents to our knowledge partners since being independent in daily activities is important,” Ms Shanbhag says. CRT provides an area-wise list of schools and therapists and informs parents about workshops. Funding is a still a problem for CRT; people donate money, books, toys and craft materials. Ms Shanbhag wants to reach out to more schools to provide training to parents and teachers on effective learning skills. To deal with special needs and disability issues for children and elders, she conducts a one-on-one session of an hour. She uses programmes like the visual auditory kinaesthetic tactile method, functional academics and life-scale training for special children. She charges parents according to their financial status.

Psychology students can work as volunteers after undergoing training with Ms Shanbhag. She has a team of psychologists and para-professionals who assist her on a regular basis.  

To reach out to more people, CRT is registered with Just Dial, so disability queries are forwarded to them. One day, she received a call from an aged male who, while expressing his grief, started crying; this is when she realised the importance of a human voice. With this incident in mind, she has started a helpline called DISHA-Disability Helpline and Action with the corporate social responsibility centre of Unity Infraprojects. Every year, to spread knowledge, CRT organises seminars on World Autism Day, Purple Day and Disability Day.

Speaking about CRT’s future plans, Ms Shanbhag says, “I want to translate and print all the material available in Marathi and other vernacular languages so that I can reach out to more people locally.” She also wants to provide facilities like day-care centres, respite homes, gymnasiums and recreational activities for children with disabilities. 

ChildRaise Trust
B/9, Jaldevi Niwas,
New Karnatak Buildings,
Mogul Lane, Mahim,
Mumbai 400 016
Helpline: 18002 21203
[email protected]

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