My exams had just gotten over and I, like every other student was looking forward to near 2 weeks of studying absolutely nothing. Two days into the vacation, I fell into a routine. I woke up late, spent half my time watching videos and checking my social media, went outside with my family and so on. Basically I was whiling away my time without any purpose.

However, one day as I scrolled through my social media, I saw a post regarding a winter workshop being conducted at a special needs center. They required volunteers for the next three weeks. I was interested in this event, mostly because I thought it would be a new experience. I gathered two friends who agreed to go with me. Since the timing was from 10-3, our parents could not drop us there because it was during working hours. We had to use public transport and that was extremely hectic because we had to use a taxi to the metro station, the metro itself for about 45 mins and then the bus for another 45 mins. The distance which could have been covered in a matter of half an hour by car, had taken us practically 1 and a half hours by public transport!

On reaching the center, we were given an orientation in which the head social worker explained exactly what was expected of us and how we must interact with these children. She told us how we must not use the word ‘normal’ because it would mean that these children are ‘abnormal’. She explained how they sense when people consider themselves to be superior to them and that we must not have a superior attitude. She told us that our job was to be firm yet kind in our interactions with them. There were several classes like cooking, martial arts, dance etc being conducted at the center and it when a child was reluctant to go to class, we were to persuade them. We were overwhelmed by the number of do’s and don’ts we had to take care of.

However, when I put these instructions into practice, I found that it wasn’t very hard at all. These children required patience and an understanding nature, but they inspired a special kind of love in me. I was exhausted after a day, having run after children who wandered away, and convincing kids to go to their classes etc, but I did not dread the next day, because I had grown attached to these children. Some had pulled at my hair and pinched me on the first day, but soon that changed. I became a familiar face at their winter workshop and they began to treat me as one of their own. Everyday, I would look forward to going and meeting them again.

This experience taught me so much. I have learnt not to pity children with special needs but to treat them as my equals, to love them for who they are, to recognize that they are also children just like me with their own likes and dislikes. I would like to end with a quote “There is ability in disability”.

 

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