Multiple tasks for a small team Each of our team members have different tasks and responsibilities according to their abilities and according to what is needed. Tasks that need to be done include shopping, cleaning and maintaining the materials, the building and our van. We do our own fundraising and keep proper accounts which are audited by the State and Central governments. We pay the salaries and Provident Fund contributions for our employees and carry out other administrative tasks. Our actual work with the children has many facets as we work with children of different ages, disabilities and needs. We provide health care and nutrition, education and therapies for the children as well as assistance to their families.
Our team members and volunteers come from varying backgrounds. Working together can be quite challenging and at the same time rewarding. We have a weekly team meeting which is essential. During this we share issues and successes, arrange organizational issues and talk about the children and any problems that arise. Some topics pop up frequently. Sometimes we have very different views, but we always find solutions which are acceptable for everybody. We have learned to make the best use of local, highly motivated people, some of whom have training and/or experience in our field. Everybody who joins Deepam gets trained further for our own specific needs. Over the years a number of foreign professional volunteers have shared their expertise with us. Some of them keep close contact and return whenever it is possible. We aspire to constantly improve our skills and our program.
Our team members talk about themselves:
It was in January 1992 that I joined the Auroville community with the intention of staying one year only. I am very grateful for all these years and the challenges I have met which helped me to grow personally. When this project started so small under the trees, it was unimaginable to foresee where we are now. Deepam has grown up gradually as we had the resources and suitable team members to expand. I am grateful to all the many people who have helped with building it up. Over the years, many volunteers and our team members have really worked hard. Without our donors’ financial support we would never have been able to work to build up Deepam.
As a trained occupational therapist I have a good base, but I was not equipped for the challenges I met in India such as working with children with polio, hearing impairment and malnutrition. I still find it hard to bear all these differences and extremes in India and to deal with poverty. I had to learn how to raise donations, how to build up and run a project with growing administrative tasks and how to handle employees and volunteers. I feel a deep gratitude for having met Selvi. She is not only a wonderful and most reliable co-executive at Deepam, but has become one of my dearest friends. I learn a lot in the exchange with the Tamil people in our team who often have a totally different approach to an issue. My life is rich and colorful. I have met wonderful people from all over the world. My favorite work is with the so-called “difficult“ children from the local villages and from inside Auroville, whose parents need a lot of guidance. I love it. With understanding, firmness, clarity and support these children make progress and they teach me a lot. These children are especially beautiful deep inside and very receptive when they get appropriate help.
By profession I am a nurse. I joined Deepam in 1999. Quickly I felt fascinated and deeply interested in this work with children who have special needs.
When I joined Deepam, Angelika asked me if I could get involved to learn more about speech therapy, as there were many children with hearing loss and other speech related problems. I was lucky that for some time a professional speech therapist came out from town to treat our children at Deepam. She gave me really good training which equipped me, when she left to go abroad, to continue on my own. Deepam is a place where I have the chance to learn more. Professionals volunteer for some time with us and it is beneficial for them and for me to exchange experiences and ideas. Never have I missed a chance to learn something new. In the end, I adapt it and use my own version. My favorite work is with children from the villages and from Auroville who are hearing impaired or who have for other reasons difficulties to articulate. This work is quite complex as each child is different and we have to consider their family situation. What a joy to hear these children say their first words. I am pleased to teach some of our children -step by step- speaking, reading and writing. In 2003 I became one of the executives of Deepam. This is a challenging job for me. Every day I learn more about how to run a project. We have faced many problems, for example with the registration of our van, with rude drivers and sometimes with our employees. As a female executive it is not easy in a man’s world. I get full support from Angelika – we are an excellent match. We complement each other and make the best out of my Indian culture and background and her western approach. Deepam would not exist and would not be sustained without Angelika’s continuous fund raising effort. We depend fully on donations. My part of the administration is also to be responsible for our accountant. The yearly auditing is quite tedious and we require help from a professional accountant. In 2007, our Deepam friends offered me the opportunity to visit Germany which was for me the first time abroad. I feel deeply grateful for this experience which widened my horizon. I had the chance to visit different projects and to learn more about speech therapy. The quality of work and life has impressed me and inspired me to put some of the things I have experienced into practice here.
I am proud to work at Deepam with friendly colleagues and motivated volunteers.
Palani I have been working at Deepam since 2001. I am trained as a multi-purpose rehabilitation technician. When I joined Deepam, I became gradually in charge of coordinating the day-care program of 25 children and young adults who stay with us for the full day. This work is wonderful for me and I learn a lot from it. It is a great chance and very enriching for me to share and discuss ideas with my colleagues and with volunteers from abroad. We worked out a schedule with educational activities in the mornings and handicrafts and vocational skills in the afternoons. Our goal is that our children hopefully can function independently when they get older. We teach them basic education through simple methods. As many of them are very shy and have fears, we use songs, games and theater skills to gradually overcome them. Several are above 18 years, though in their mental age much younger. We have to address them differently. We train them in daily life activities, send them shopping, to the post office, have them do a phone call, measure quantities and have cooking sessions with them. Most of them have no toilet at their home. They need training on how to use a toilet and how to wash their hands properly. This takes frequent repetition. Health care is a part of our work as many of them have low haemoglobin levels in their blood. We are giving healthy food and encourage them to eat raw vegetables which is not usual in our culture. Many of them have bad teeth. We give them training on how to brush their teeth properly after meals. Once a year, they get a check up from the nearby dentist. A basic part of all our activities is to teach social skills such as respect, consideration and to help each other. At Deepam, I can share my difficulties with the other team members and we find solutions. Deepam helps to improve the personal life of the people who are working there. I have a lot of liberty and independence to put my dreams into practice and to improve the life of the children entrusted to us. At Deepam, I feel at home.
Gopal I have been working at Deepam since 2006. I have completed DCBR (Diploma in Community Based Rehabilitation). My main work is speech therapy for hearing impaired children. I am also maintaining their hearing aids and taking care of their ear moulds. Every week I check, with an otoscope, the ears of each child of our day-care group. Many of them have frequent infections or blockages because of ear-wax. If required, I refer them to the doctor and take care of the follow up. To many of our older children I teach “activities of daily living” (ADL); for example, how to handle money, to help them understand time, brushing teeth and toilet training. As a team, we’re trying our very best and are working nicely together. When I was a baby of eight months old, I had fever and suffered from polio, which left some muscles of my left leg paralyzed. Being physically challenged, I understand what some of our children suffer outside. In our society, disabled persons are seen to have low value and are often treated roughly and disrespectfully. It happened to me many times that people treated me as mentally abnormal, just because I can’t walk properly. At Deepam, the children are protected and respected in their special needs and abilities. I can’t express in words what it means to me to work at Deepam and how happy it makes me to be able to help these children.
Babu I joined Deepam in 2006. I grew up in the nearby village, but went to school in Auroville for many years. Meanwhile, I have joined the Auroville community. At Deepam, I am helping with the basic education of our children, painting class, handicrafts and clay work. Especially during my training period, I learned how to handle these children, to be more clear in my own approach and this has helped me in my outside life. Before I had worked at different places, but nowhere did I have the kind of team experience that we have at Deepam. Most of my colleagues are older than me, but I get treated with respect. Selvi and Angelika as executives communicate well with us, which helps us to perform our duties perfectly. I feel fortunate to work at this place.
Kalaimani When I was three years old, I had a fever and suffered from polio which affected both of my legs and left me physically challenged. In 1992, when I was six, a group of foreigners started a playground for children under the old Tamarind trees in my village. After school I could go there for physiotherapy exercises & oil massage, playing & snacks. You can see me as a really skinny boy in several pictures of the “Old Playground”. There, for the first time, we got help and support to recover from our physical and emotional challenges, which I will never forget. I met Angelika first on that simple place under trees and it is amazing to see how over the years this project has grown up offering service to many more children and young people from the surrounding villages. Only when I was 26 years old I finally joined Deepam as a team member. I have completed a diploma in Lab Technician but felt not satisfied with that type of work. At the moment I am helping with the education of our children, the painting class, for handicrafts and to give exercises at the swimming pool. I can share my difficulties with the other team members and we find solutions. It feels nice to have Gopal in the team who is also physically challenged by polio. Deepam helps also to improve the personal life of the people who are working there. I have a lot of liberty and independence to put my ideas into practice and would like to thank Angelika & Selvi for giving me this opportunity.Coming back to work where I have received helped years ago felt like coming home!
Kayalvizhi I joined Deepam recently after my diploma training in community based rehabilitation. It is an amazing place for children with special needs. They become engaged with many different creative activities. There are good materials available and many events are celebrated. My colleagues and the volunteers are very talented people – I like everybody here. At Deepam I have the chance to learn a lot and to develop more skills. Thank you for giving me the chance to work at such a special place!
Joyce Since February 2013 I have been working as a physiotherapist at Deepam. Personally this was for me such a positive change compared with the work places where I had been before. I am very proud to be part of our team at Deepam as we work closely together and support each other.
The students at Deepam get many opportunities offered, such as support for their health and medical conditions, education and a lot of personal care. They get freedom to develop their own personalities but at the same time they also receive guidance and support for their future. Most of the children and young people I am working with have severe physical and neurological disorders and it is important that the physiotherapy exercises are done regularly. I also try to motivate the parents to support their children. Day by day I see my patients improving which gives me a lot of joy.
Tamil I first started at Deepam in 2013 helping for a few hours a week keeping the accounts, which is my profession. After some time I became more involved in the office, e.g. the payment of salaries and editing of photographs. Gradually I was also introduced to group activities with our special children such as games and assisting at the weekly yoga class. Over the past years I had learnt AVIVA, a sequence of especially healthy exercises for women. I started teaching this method to all the female team members at Deepam. Once a week we jump and move together and sweat and laugh so much.
Here I am given the opportunity to discover and develop my own skills. Deepam school is an amazing project – something touches me deeply here, probably also because I am from the local village and have known some of our children since they were born. Before no one cared for them, they had no friends and were sitting around like beggars. These children from my village are very fortunate and benefit so much from Deepam. I would like to thank all who have made it possible for this project to happen!
Leo I joined Deepam in 2019 when I moved to Auroville with my partner. I’m an occupational therapist by profession, and after many years of often unsatisfying health and social care experience in the UK, I was drawn to the wholesomeness of Deepam. It is refreshing to be working in a beautiful fusion of Indian and Western culture and practice which celebrates and embraces diversity in all it’s beautiful forms. It is an honour to work with these students and see them blossom. I’m constantly amazed at their resilience, relative contentedness (despite their challenging situations) and their ability to work so nicely with and for each other. My main work is providing 1:1 therapy using activity to promote physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. For the younger children this is usually focused around play, including everything from obstacle courses to puzzles to ball games and sensory play. For the older students this is focused more on vocational training, including handicrafts, woodwork and farm work.
I grew up in a Camphill community living together with adults with learning disabilities and this has fuelled a deep desire to see children with learning disabilities given the opportunities to grow into happy and healthy adults that can engage with and contribute to their communities. I am so happy to be doing this work here. I truly feel Deepam is a special place and I’m very grateful to be a part of it.