It was a ten-minute drive from my accommodation to Arapalayam where JK MAASS has its centre – a small, one-level building with a big hall and one room in a corner. The hall was separated into three sections by cardboard sheets. One section is for children with IQs below 50. The second section is for children who have shown progress or have IQs above 60. The third is for the children who can are able to undergo vocational training.
As founder Sudhakaran walked me through the place I was drawn towards a child with a radiant smile undergoing Physiotherapy. Her name is Sangeeta and she is 13 years old. She suffers from Cerebral Palsy. Her mother says “I heard about the foundation through a friend of mine. I was resigned to the fact that my daughter could never lead a normal life. She could not walk and was completely bedridden. Since the time I brought her here there has been a transformation. Not just physiotherapy; they also teach her techniques to concentrate and teach her to stabilize her finger movements and her spine.”
As her mom was speaking to me, Sangeeta stretched her hand to shake mine as a huge smile appeared on her face. “She can understand everything we speak,” adds her mother. Her mother now works with the organization taking care of the children and attending to their basic needs.
Sudhakaran then introduced me to Sangeeta’s elder sister Ramya who is undergoing training in special education.
The children come to school at eight every morning. JK MAASS provides them with a basic development kit which consists of equipment and material to develop concentration and stabilize finger movements. There are sheets for colour identification and few activity-oriented games.
As part of the enrollment process, a thorough background check on economic status and living conditions is done. Most children belong to families of daily wage earners who don’t have stable incomes. JK MAASS provides support to the parents, offering training and counselling so that the treatment can continue at home.
JK MAASS now reaches almost all the wards in Madurai region and is a government recognized special school. Future plans include a vocational training center and improvements in the current infrastructure.