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Nursing the physically, mentally-challenged

Antoinette Termoshuizen | Published: November 09, 2019 12:30:52 | Updated: November 15, 2019 21:52:57


My first visit to Bangladesh was in 1993. I was shocked but also directly in love with the country and its people. In Falsathia, I met Sayed, a little boy with cerebral palsy, he needed therapy and other support and I promised him to help. Since then my entire life revolves around Bangladesh. I voluntarily run the Niketan Foundation.

Children with disabilities and their families are confronted by barriers including inadequate legislation and policies, negative attitudes, inadequate services, and lack of accessible environment. If children with developmental delays or disabilities and their families are not provided with timely and appropriate early intervention, support and protection, their difficulties can become more severe, often leading to lifelong consequences, increased poverty and profound exclusion.

To Niketan it is important to meet the individual needs of each child and to embrace the small steps in its progress. Our programme is designed to address all individual challenges of the child. Through early intervention parents can get assistance in understanding the needs of the child while at the same time the child gets a more social interaction with its family.

Through a nutritious meal and paramedical care we assure that the children can develop optimally. Through thematic education we help them to boost their skills and build up their personality. The programme is based on the capabilities of the pupils and takes into account their specific disabilities. In this way we offer students the opportunity to develop optimally.

The classes are practical and tailored to individual needs. When they get older they should not be abandoned. We empower them, assure lifelong learning and access to safety net programmes. With the right support disabled persons and their families can break the barrier and can become a valuable member of the society.

We established a vocational training centre which covers a farm and a carpentry in which we help youngsters to develop practical and theoretical skills. This vocational training is considered as the second development phase to work. Now we are ready for the third development phase: turn the acquired skills of the adolescents into real jobs inside or outside the resource centres of Niketan/DRRA.

Therefore Niketan and DRRA like to establish a sheltered production centre. The major business activity of this centre will be to make wooden assistive devices for children with a disability.

A real win-win approach. We concentrate on three devices to be able to guarantee quality. Each device is designed with foreign expertise and will be delivered with a practical instruction video and hand-out to assure proper use and maintaining of the device.

For both children and adults with disabilities, continuing education and upgrading of skills are important in order to create, sustain and develop livelihood opportunities.

People with disabilities face many barriers to finding decent wage employment, the existing employment situation in Bangladesh has a high commercial and competitive focus in which the youths with disabilities are not able to compete and include themselves. While work is an important life activity.

It contributes to maintaining the individual, it will provide them respect from the family and the community and society at large. Most importantly work provides opportunities for social and economic participation, which enhances personal fulfilment and a sense of self-worth.

The exclusion of people with disabilities from work imposes a financial burden on the family, the community and other individuals or organisations that provide support and care, including major costs to social welfare and social security systems.

Exclusion from work represents the loss of a significant amount of productivity and income and therefore investments to offset exclusion are required.

We are proud of which we achieved and that the Asian Centre of Inclusive Education (ACIE) considers our education programme from international standard. BUT we need your help.

There is an increasing need to find ways to help social mission and programme to be sustainable and benefitting the society in their needs continuously. The national and international donor organisations from the Netherlands or elsewhere, have been facing constraints in providing continuous grant or subsidy support to the social programmes / projects.

If we do not find Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) or Government fund for our schools, we might have to close them in 2021. While it is Niketan's dream to extend our programme and support special schools in the countryside with our knowledge.

We want to keep our centres in Manikganj district open, there for we request companies to come forward and help us to make our programs sustainable, to adopt a class, a school, a training. To make their companies disability-friendly and to provide appropriate work opportunities for people with a disability. Together we can make a huge change. Let's share the future.

Niketan is a Dutch NGO which supports since 1995 projects for 550 disabled children and youngsters in Bangladesh.

Descriptions about three children who have benefited from the service of Niketan are given below.

Helena: She is a six-year old girl with cerebral palsy and a mild cognitive impairment. She can't speak yet, but communicates with facial expression and body language quite effectively.

Her parents were in shock when their little princess after a difficult delivery turned out to be handicapped. They were worried about her future and looked for help one year after she was born. Helena's grandmother got word of the 'early intervention' group and she decided to make the long journey to the centre.

She did not have head balance and therefore could not sit on her own; she was not able to hold or grasp things. Physiotherapy taught her to keep her head upright and how to sit on her own. Her interest in her surroundings was aroused and she started to explore toys with her hands.

The world was an interesting place and she started to explore it sitting on her bottom. She didn't have time to learn to crawl. Instead she soon took her first uncertain steps by her grandmothers' hand. At the age of three Helena could walk all by herself.

Onwards to new heights: learning how to eat by herself. Helena was challenged to handle more difficult toys to improve her fine motor skills. This way she learned how to eat without help before the age of 4. Now Helena can run, sing and dance and visit the special school regularly.

Sodeb: He is 18 years old boy with Down Syndrome. While speaking to his mother she started crying, she used to get very upset before as Sodeb never use to listen to them at all. But now he tries at least. She is happy that he understands things now. While growing up Sodeb had a rough childhood.

Neighbours were not that understanding before. Children use to taunt him as they knew about his mental condition so they use to intentionally bother her by calling him names like pagol, chagol and also use to show hand signs that would bother him.

When Sodeb uses to get angry he would tear up his clothes in the open road and run around naked and chase them whoever would bother him. He uses to throw stones as well and people use to get hurt in this process. But according to his mother there is a vast difference between now and then.

Sodeb went to the special school of DRRA / Niketan and is now receiving training in a sheltered carpentry unit. He gets a training on social skills and training on SRHR. Now he knows how to wear clothes and also goes to workshop wearing good clothes.

The neighbours, behaviour has changed towards Sodeb as they acknowledge that how hard Sodeb is trying to become better and they understand that Sodeb is no mad as he has good feelings and tries to help people around. The neighbours and Sodeb are now very supportive of each other. The past has been forgotten for good now.

Tanjith: Tanjith is nine years old and due to an oxygen shortage during birth she has cerebral palsy. He lives with his family in a little village under Daulatpur thana, far away from appropriate services. Since she was not able to sit nor stand by herself she was bound to lay on bed all day. But luckily her life changed.

Now Tanjith visits a community-based rehabilitation centre of DRRA / Niketan, where she learn social and cognitive skills like recognizing colours, reading and writing.

She gets physiotherapy and even better her mother learned to do those exercises with her at home. She learned to sit by herself and received a prone standing frame to practise standing.

The standing frame helps her to strengthen her muscles, it stimulates her senses and improves her physical development. It also gives her a new perception of the world and improves her social skills. Every Friday a volunteer comes to her house and plays with her. Now neighbour's kids are less afraid and also come to play with her. It is her wish to learn to walk and to become less independent.

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