The brainchild of a concerned quartet - Meera Budhia, Alka Nizamie, Sudha Lhila and Usha Jalan - the institute has extended its scope to treat children suffering from cerebral palsy, speech and hearing impairment, emotional trauma and behavioural problems. Operating five days a week from its rented premises, Deepshikha imparts training, guidance, and special education to mentally challenged children between 9 am and 1 pm. "A child is taught various skills appropriate to his/her age and level of mental development by trained teachers, special educators, psychologists and speech therapists," says Nizamie, an assistant professor of clinical psychology who holds the office of academics director at the institute.
The institute's curricula for the 40-odd children in its care are problem- and function-specific. The stress is on self-help skills, language and communication, socialising skills, functional academics, games, art and craft, music and yoga exercises, explains Nizamie. Besides, the institute also runs an oral school for the deaf, a clinical services centre, extension services, early intervention programmes, awareness programmes and social integration schemes. Deepshikha also awards a professional diploma to trainees pursuing its manpower training programmes. "Affiliated to the National Institute of Mentally Handicapped, Secunderabad, Deepshikha is the only training centre of its kind in Bihar," says Lhila, director of the institute.
The children, depending on their age and level of mental development, are categorised into six-seven broad groups by the institute. Looked after by about 15 secretarial employees and volunteers, these mentally challenged children are trained in file-making, screen-printing, card- and envelope-making and sewing. The Deepshikha children are fast learners: they won 15 honours at the Special Olympics held in Chandigarh last year. Two of them, Ranjeeta and Abhishek, bagged golds. The children hope to repeat the gold-winning runs at national- and state-level sports meets this year as well. "We're confident of more medals this time," says Nizamie.
However, like most other social service organisations, Deepshikha too has had to restrict its activities for want of money. "Because of financial constraints, we have been forced to limit our services within the four walls of this building. The accommodation itself costs Rs 5,000 per month," rues septuagenarian Mithilesh Kanti, ex-principal of the reputed Netarhat school and the only male member of the Deepshikha core team. Asked about the future plans for the institute, Kanti says the top priority is a building of its own. Plans envisage a self-sufficient complex for at least 100 children, a respite centre for 25 children, family cottages for outstation cases, expansion of the community-based rehabilitation programme and a research centre with library and documentation facilities. Right now, Deepshikha sources its funds selling Diwali gift hampers and cards and from donations. Not to forget, though, the sustained fund-raising campaign of its president Usha Jalan.
Before the Lok Sabha elections, Union finance minister Yashwant Sinha had visited the institute and promised to do something to help Deepshikha tide over its financial crisis. But nothing has materialised so far, prompting Kanti to say: "Mr Sinha, it seems, needs a reminder on his promise." If you wish to help Kanti and his team lead these ostracised children "from despair to hope", write to Deepshikha Institute for Child Development and Mental Health, Arya Samaj Mandir, Swami Shradhanand Road, Ranchi 834001, or call 0651-306203, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.