It started out as a playground under the trees
In January 1992, two Italian ladies from Auroville gathered children who were affected by disability in the local village of Kuilapalayam, in Tamil Nadu / South India, on the so-called ‘playground’ under some big tamarind trees. At that time, there were mainly children with learning disabilities and several boys who had polio. Initially, physiotherapy exercises, play, handicrafts and snacks were offered on three afternoons per week. The children were very enthusiastic and came regularly. Over the years the ones with polio found their way and started to work or study and became independent of our help. The vaccination program of the Indian government has been successful and in recent years we have not seen children newly affected by polio. Though for the ones with learning disabilities, hearing impairment and other special needs it was necessary to improve and develop our program.
Step by step, we have gradually developed DEEPAM into a center for children and youth with various disabilities. After working for three years at a make-shift place under the trees, we were able to move into our first therapy room in 1995 at the Children’s Home building near the Auroville Health Centre. Finally a place with a roof! Steadily, our work expanded to other villages, our team grew and we gained more expertise. Angelika Ehrle, an occupational therapist from Germany was with the project from the beginning. In 2000, Lawrence Selvi, a trained nurse from India joined and pursued further training for speech therapy. With our backgrounds and our experience we make a good team for sharing the responsibility for this growing project. In 2003 Deepam was registered as a ‘service unit’ under the Auroville Foundation.
- In 2003, we got our first own mini-schoolbus – thanks to DIK Germany. Since then, we are able to pick up children daily from far out villages who could not attend mainstream schools. Also we constructed a beautiful upstairs space to host our day care program.
- We are able to provide physio-, occupational- and speech- therapy for children from more than 20 of the surrounding villages.
- We ensure basic health care such as testing the haemoglobin level in the blood and screening for parasites in the intestines which can affect a child’s health tremendously. Appropriate medication and supplements are provided; free of cost only if the family cannot afford them. Our children receive frequent dental checkups. If required, we take them to specialists and help for investigations and surgery.
- Head lice are checked for weekly.
- For all the children who attend our program, we provide nutritious snacks twice a day and a healthy lunch.
- We reach out to parents and teachers for advice and support.
- We were able to build up a stable team of qualified people who are dedicated to this type of work.
- We have become well known as a place where volunteers can contribute and gain experience. Many volunteers stay up to one year with us. We had professionals from different countries who exchanged their expertise with us.
- Many children and their parents have profited from our work over the years. The children who came in touch with us are fortunate. Our reward is to see them blooming.
Our main goal is to improve and to maintain the quality of our work in every possible way!