‘SNEHALAYA, THE HOME OF LOVE’ Snehalaya, whichmeans ‘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 inThane which consists of an orphanage, a school for special needs and facilitiesfor Yoga and meditation. The most unique feature is it’s ‘gaushala’ among theplayground and garden. The home always chirp with laughter and a sense offreedom which its chairman Ms. Bernadette Pimenta wanted these little childrento enjoy.Snehalaya happensto be the expansion of the health care services they used to provide in 1998and in 2007, the Charity established ‘Snehalaya’ with sixty children, as acampus where these children could grow in each other’s’ company and a familiarand friendly environment. This also appeals to create awareness among themembers of the society regarding the care of these children by initiating anetwork of volunteers that will work effectively in doing so. The organisationis registered as an associate member of Parivaar, which a National Confederationof parents’ association for children with mental illness, auticism, cerebral palsyand multiple disabilities. “In 2004, alittle girl arrived who had been abandoned and was barely alive.
During thetreatment it was found out that she had HIV+ and then everyone refused toaccept her. This inspired me to start hospice for such cases of children butthen other patients reduced greatly in number because of the myth that itspreads and then I decided that we need to open our own home for such specialcases to house mentally-ill, disabled children. After my wife passed away in2004, I devoted all my time in establishing Snehalaya,” says Ms.Bernadette Pimenta, chairman of Snehalaya when asked about an incident whichinspired her to start the home.She further revealsthat they have grown over the years and have 67 children, aged between 12-14 withinthe campus. He makes sure that the children receive proper attention.
A few ofthese children were also left abandoned on the gate and they also provide careto the children whose parents want them to. “Students are providededucation in the school for special needs where we focus on their basiceducation, customised to their abilities. Our trained counselors and teachersare trained to attend to their needs. Music, hydro and speech therapy plays avital role for these children,” adds Pimenta. The main objective of the organisationis to provide special care and attention to every individual with a sense ofbelonging.The children arealso provided with formal education and vocational training. While formaleducation focuses on literacy, the students are also trained in making candles,greeting cards and sewing as a part of the curriculum. “We know that thementally challenged children of Snehalaya will not be able to find a placeanywhere when they become adults.
Hence we continue to support them here andallow them to contribute in whatever way possible like gardening, helping withkitchen or anything depending on their capabilities. We believe in independenceand self-sufficiency as core elements of human existence,” says 32-yearold Olivia who is the Secretary at Snehalaya since the past five years.Snehalaya also provides special para professional services provided by NationalInstitute of Handicapped. This home also hosts guiding and counselling sessionsof both the children and the parents. Snehelaya is alocal team of honourary trustees and advisors who help in its management andadministration and their devoted team of teachers, nurses and therapists makesure that all their services are rendered in the best way possible. They alsoextend their services to other villages, slums and orphanages.
Interestingly,Snehalaya also initiated the ‘Light for education’ programme in 2009 whichhelped in creating awareness about the importance of solar lights and how it’susage could provide electricity to suburban areas and nearby villages, whichsuffer from loss of electricity. This programme educates people about howenergy should be saved and used sustainably for the use of futuregenerations. The organisation also hosts certain events like Sports day, teachers’day programme, picnics , Independence day programme and fund raisersfrequently. The recently organised Self Advocacy Forum of India- Thane Chapterwas an effective tool to create awareness among the masses.
Snehalaya alsohelps to get those a jpb who have the potential and capabilities.In a country like India, this is aplace which does not receive any help monetarily by the Government, thisplace remains to be the place of love: open for all those who need, a placewhich teaches all to live a meaningful and dignified life. They strive toimprove the quality of life of the intellectually challenged children byproving them live skills which will enhance their self-esteem. Let us allcontribute to their efforts and help them envision an inspiring India and lookat education as an expansion of freedom!