‘SNEHALAYA, to provide in 1998 and in 2007,



Snehalaya, which
means ‘home of love’ has been providing help and care to mentally-ill children,
women and aged for the last fifteen years. This is a self-sustainable campus in
Thane which consists of an orphanage, a school for special needs and facilities
for Yoga and meditation. The most unique feature is it’s ‘gaushala’ among the
playground and garden. The home always chirp with laughter and a sense of
freedom which its chairman Ms. Bernadette Pimenta wanted these little children
to enjoy.

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Snehalaya happens
to be the expansion of the health care services they used to provide in 1998
and in 2007, the Charity established ‘Snehalaya’ with sixty children, as a
campus where these children could grow in each other’s’ company and a familiar
and friendly environment. This also appeals to create awareness among the
members of the society regarding the care of these children by initiating a
network of volunteers that will work effectively in doing so. The organisation
is registered as an associate member of Parivaar, which a National Confederation
of parents’ association for children with mental illness, auticism, cerebral palsy
and multiple disabilities.

“In 2004, a
little girl arrived who had been abandoned and was barely alive. During the
treatment it was found out that she had HIV+ and then everyone refused to
accept her. This inspired me to start hospice for such cases of children but
then other patients reduced greatly in number because of the myth that it
spreads and then I decided that we need to open our own home for such special
cases to house mentally-ill, disabled children. After my wife passed away in
2004, I devoted all my time in establishing Snehalaya,” says Ms.
Bernadette Pimenta, chairman of Snehalaya when asked about an incident which
inspired her to start the home.

She further reveals
that they have grown over the years and have 67 children, aged between 12-14 within
the campus. He makes sure that the children receive proper attention. A few of
these children were also left abandoned on the gate and they also provide care
to the children whose parents want them to. “Students are provided
education in the school for special needs where we focus on their basic
education, customised to their abilities. Our trained counselors and teachers
are trained to attend to their needs. Music, hydro and speech therapy plays a
vital role for these children,” adds Pimenta. The main objective of the organisation
is to provide special care and attention to every individual with a sense of

The children are
also provided with formal education and vocational training. While formal
education focuses on literacy, the students are also trained in making candles,
greeting cards and sewing as a part of the curriculum. “We know that the
mentally challenged children of Snehalaya will not be able to find a place
anywhere when they become adults. Hence we continue to support them here and
allow them to contribute in whatever way possible like gardening, helping with
kitchen or anything depending on their capabilities. We believe in independence
and self-sufficiency as core elements of human existence,” says 32-year
old Olivia who is the Secretary at Snehalaya since the past five years.
Snehalaya also provides special para professional services provided by National
Institute of Handicapped. This home also hosts guiding and counselling sessions
of both the children and the parents.

Snehelaya is a
local team of honourary trustees and advisors who help in its management and
administration and their devoted team of teachers, nurses and therapists make
sure that all their services are rendered in the best way possible. They also
extend their services to other villages, slums and orphanages. Interestingly,
Snehalaya also initiated the ‘Light for education’ programme in 2009 which
helped in creating awareness about the importance of solar lights and how it’s
usage could provide electricity to suburban areas and nearby villages, which
suffer from loss of electricity. This programme educates people about how
energy should be saved and used sustainably for the use of future
generations. The organisation also hosts certain events like Sports day, teachers’
day programme, picnics , Independence day programme and fund raisers
frequently. The recently organised Self Advocacy Forum of India- Thane Chapter
was an effective tool to create awareness among the masses. Snehalaya also
helps to get those a jpb who have the potential and capabilities.

In a country like India, this is a
place which does not receive any help monetarily by the Government, this
place remains to be the place of love: open for all those who need, a place
which teaches all to live a meaningful and dignified life. They strive to
improve the quality of life of the intellectually challenged children by
proving them live skills which will enhance their self-esteem. Let us all
contribute to their efforts and help them envision an inspiring India and look
at education as an expansion of freedom!