Summer Internship with CBM India – Pratham Jain from Xavier Institute of Social Service

Monthly Winner – Editor’s Choice AwardPratham

Daily Winner for: –  31st August 2013

Name of the intern: – Pratham Jain

Institute: –  Xavier Institute of Social Service

Organization interned with: – CBM India

CBM India selected 10 students from the Department of Rural Management, XISS for internship for two months starting April 15th 2013. I was among the lucky ones. The organization, CBM is an international funding agency that works for the development and rehabilitation of PWDs ( Persons With Disabilities). The project manager at CBM India office had come to college on 12th March and cleared our doubts regarding the internship, stipend, lodging and food arrangements etc. We were to be sent to 4 different organisations in India who received funds from CBM for work in the field of disability. I was selected to go to Blind People’s Association (BPA), Ahmedabad with Abhinandan, my colleague. I am from Ranchi itself and Abhinandan is from Patna.

We reached Ahmedabad on 14th of April, one day before the beginning of our internship and contacted Mr. Jyotish Choudhary who took us to the guest house of a hostel which was apparently for those women with disabilities who either worked at BPA or were pursuing some voluntary training courses. We were assigned our separate rooms which were small but comfortable with a cupboard, a table and a chair. I liked the ambiance and had a quiet and peaceful first night.

The next day we reached the BPA campus sharp at 9:30 am as directed by Jyotish Sir. We were given a tour of the organization’s main campus and we learnt that BPA works not only for the education of blind people, but also deals with various other types of disabilities and puts effort for a secured livelihood opportunities for the people with disabilities. While going through the campus I saw people with all kinds of disabilities and felt pity for them. It was not very usual for me to see PWDs everyday in Ranchi so I felt really uneasy initially. Every time I saw a little blind boy or girl my heart would go out for them and out of instinct I would start praying for their better lives ahead.

Both of us underwent a week long training regarding various types of disabilities and their causes, effects and cures. We were given presentations on different types of disabilities and CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation) by specialists in their fields. Blindness simulation was one of the most sensitive part of the training. We were blindfolded and were asked to go to the front gate of the campus and come back with the help of a person who would be instructing us all the time. I still remember that tears had welled up in my eyes when I finally returned back to the training hall not because of the bumps and tiny scratches I got during the procedure but because that day I felt the pain of a blind person. Even when I was being guided I kept bumping here and there and reached the destination with huge difficulty and that too when I had already visited the whole campus before. It was difficult for me to imagine how the blind people did it without ever seeing the place and most importantly without a guiding person.

After the training we met with Mrs. Nandini Rawal, Project Director at BPA and she asked us to observe the kids who came there to study and find our field of interest. I spent the week meeting various teachers and students and interacting with them. I met Kavina Ma’am who takes care of children with visual impairment and additional disabilities, Ushma Ma’am who deals with children with mental retardation, Krupa ma’am who takes care of development of children who are deaf and blind, Deepa ma’am who takes care of autistic children, Suman di and Dipti di, teachers at deaf and blind unit and the children under their guidance. I befriended Dhawan, a seven year old deaf and blind kid, who plays very the tabla beautifully and has a very good sense of music. We also attended the parents-teachers meet. Though most of the event was in Gujarati but still I could see the happiness and satisfaction of the parents who brought their children to BPA. When Hari Om’s grandfather, a visibly strong gentleman, broke down to tears sharing the progress of his grandchild who was multiply disabled, the whole crowd, me included, could not resist their tears as well.

Nandini Ma’am assigned me to Vimal Thawani ma’am who was going to be my guide during the internship. Vimal ma’am discussed the probable topics of study as I was to work with parents of children with disabilities. Finally I decided to do my research on the topic ‘social inclusion of children with disabilities and attitude of their parents’. Under the very helpful guidance of Vimal ma’am I completed the questionnaire for the research survey within 3 days.

Vimal ma’am taught me not to pity the PWDs. A look of pity is the one thing they hate the most. Rather she told me that we must be compassionate towards them and treat them as our equal. Social inclusion is possible only when people have a broad outlook towards persons with disabilities. She also told me that while speaking and addressing we always keep the person first rather than the problem he/she is facing (‘persons with disabilities’ should be used rather than ‘disabled persons’).

Frankly I did not think that interviewing a parent would be tough until I interviewed Naliniben. There were some questions in the questionnaire that were quite difficult to answer for a parent of child with special needs. Naliniben broke down in the middle of the interview and I myself could not control my emotions and tears welled up in my eyes as well. So the first interview was a tough experience on my part but Vimal ma’am told me that we should never be sympathetic towards the children with disabilities rather show them empathy. This will keep us from getting emotional as emotions cloud our judgment over logic. I also learnt that while interviewing one should not have a preconception of the situation and circumstances. Judgmental attitude hampers pure data and we listen only what we want to listen not what the other tells us. I was learning rapidly.

It took me one month to collect the data as it was summer vacation for the students at BPA and it was difficult to meet children because most of them had gone to some or the other places to enjoy the vacations. Meanwhile I went around Ahmedabad with Abhinandan, watched movies, ate Gujarati thaali and really had the time of our life. We went to Sabarmati Ashram as well.

My internship ended on 15th June 2013 after we both had submitted our respective reports of study to Nandini Ma’am and left for Ranchi on the 16th. We received Rs 8000 as stipend from which I bought a saari for my mother and a watch for my dad. I had to get a few jeans and tops for my little sister as well ‘If you want to stay alive’ as she had warned. I gave the remaining amount to my mom when I returned home.

The internship at BPA Ahmedabad was a great learning opportunity for me as I got to understand the huge difference between the mindsets of PWDs with respect to others. People WITHOUT disabilities take things for granted. They don’t appreciate the value of what has been given to them. Two eyes to look at the beautiful world, two ears to listen to the morning chirping of the birds, two hands to works, two legs to walk and a completely sensible brain to understand and comprehend messages vocal, visual or written. Instead they complain about the amount of work they have to do, the responsibilities on them, the hectic lifestyle they live and many more. And here at BPA every day I watched a deaf and blind kid, happily dancing and playing tabla with an unmatched zeal; I saw Harshadbhai, a mentally retarded person, happily making the best tea I have ever tasted outside home; Ishaan, mentally challenged, enjoying the pre-vocational training and happily making the necklaces and beautiful earrings. All this has made me think the who are we to teach them, we should be the ones learning from them the art of living happily. I am moved by the effort BPA puts in to empower the people with disabilities.

I have decided that I will work for the persons with disabilities in future and find my career in this field only. I have also found out an NGO in Ranchi which works in the same field and right now I am trying to gain as much knowledge about this field as I can.  I sincerely thank CBM for giving me this opportunity and helping me decide the course of my life.

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