On obtaining a degree in Physiotherapy, Mr. Sudhakaran, the founder of JK MAASS started working at a multi-specialty hospital. Most of his patients were mentally and physically disabled children. He served them relentlessly for ten years. It was during his tenure at the hospital that he understood fully the disparity between the rich and the poor. Children of well-to-do parents could afford treatment while those from poor families simply could not. When he resigned his post as a Physiotherapist, he started his own clinic at Madurai where he began to attend to the poor.
“During my service at the hospital, everyday I used to go back home and discuss with my family how the children from poorer and most time rural families could not afford treatment and would continue to suffer if they didn’t have any treatment. I decided to leave my job and started a clinic where I began to treat these children from rural backgrounds. I also attended to those who suffered from Cerebral Palsy. As time went by I wanted to set up a more formal and organized structure and spoke to my parents about starting an organization which would meet the needs of these underprivileged, special needs people. Thankfully, my parents understood and supported me. It took us more than a year to comply with the governments requirements. In 2003, JK MAASS Foundation was formally registered,” he says.
JK MAASS’ first office was a 10ft room in Madurai with only one beneficiary. Slowly, the child’s mother started to spread the word. Two more children enrolled and started treatment. “All my savings were used for registrations and equipment. I had to borrow from my parents who were luckily very supportive.”
Sudhakaran and two other colleagues who used to work with him earlier did door-to-door surveys during the time he was waiting for the registration of the trust to come through. They prepared a database of over 100 villages and classified the children. “We wanted to attend to cases of Cerebral Palsy because most schools took care of mentally challenged children and neglected the Palsy affected,” adds Sudhakaran
“As requirements changed, so did the projects. We started a special need schools where childrens’ IQs were tested and training planned accordingly. Children with IQ below 50 were classified as severely challenged and between 50-60 as moderate.”
A major challenge was convincing parents of the children. “Parents were very skeptical. They were not ready to send their children to the special school. Most of our time went in explaining the concept to them. It was slow work at first but slowly more and more children started trickling in due to word of mouth.”
JK MAASS now has five special educators, who along with one physiotherapist work full time to serve 55 children.