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Snehankit Helpline Winter Camp for Young Adults - 2019

A Life Skills Training Camp for Young Adults was conducted under the aegis of Snehankit Helpline at Sobti Respite Care Centre at Wada, near Mumbai from 26th- 30th December 2019. The aim of the Camp was to give these youngsters a taste of independence outside of their home environment and teach them life skills.

Twenty five visually impaired young adults between the ages of 16 to 22 years attended the Camp. There were 17 girls and 8 boys. Of these, one boy with partial vision came forward to assist the others as a volunteer apart from participating himself. The participants were all students studying in Junior College (11th and 12th Standard) and Senior College (BA, BMS etc). They came from all over Mumbai, Thane, Pune, even Nanded and Hingoli.

After the success of the Summer Camp for younger children in April 2019, the idea of having such a camp for young adults was mooted. While these youngsters are at the cusp of adulthood, they are rarely given responsibility at home or the independence to manage themselves by their family members. The Camp aimed to teach them skills that they would use in their daily lives apart from bringing them together with young men and women of their age group.

Camp Highlights

The Camp was meticulously planned by Ms Pallavi Shankar and Ms Sampada Palanitkar of the Dombivali Centre. Ms Megha Barolikar who has newly joined as faculty at the Dombivali Centre also joined the Camp. The volunteers who ably supported them and made this camp a success were Ms Alka Shrawne, Ms Mrunalini Gupte, Ms Janhavi Joshi, Ms Geeta Subramaniam and Ms Sandhya Tanpure. In addition, volunteers who visited, bringing with them goodies and treats for the participants were Ms Jayalakshmi (Sandhya) Bhujang, Ms Alka Chakradeo, Ms Revati Yevlekar, Ms Seema Garde and Mr Aditya Dhanavade.

On 26th December, all the participants, volunteers and faculty gathered at Thane Railway station. A mini bus was organised to bring everyone to the venue at Wada in Thane District. The first day was used for orientation and getting to know each other. All the participants got a tour of Sobti Respite Care, its facilities and also their dormitories. The highlight of the evening was everyone getting to know each other and the budding of friendships between the participants.

Daily Activities

On the remaining days of the camp, everyone woke up at 5.30 am and got ready for a walk by 6.30 am. The walk lasted up to 1 and half hours. The length of the morning walk was intentionally long to build up the stamina of the participants because they were not used to such a lot of physical exercise in their daily lives. The idea was also to get them used to walking on uneven surfaces and use the cane for walking. Many of them were not used to the cane and were shy to use it. The walks helped to overcome this shyness.

After the walk and some hot tea and biscuits, exercises termed ‘Activities of Daily Living’ were conducted. These included tips and techniques to take care of themselves and practice skills that they sometimes didn’t do at home, such as cutting their own nails or washing clothes or braiding their own hair.

Following delicious hot breakfast the day’s structured programme would commence. These included modules on communication skills, personality development, technology for daily living, family life education, recognising heroes in daily life (more on these to follow).

The late afternoons were spent in learning basic cooking skills. Each day the snack item for the evening tea was prepared by the students with help from the volunteers. They learnt to wash, peel and cut vegetables, put together simple snack items such as Bhel Puri, Dadpe Pohe, Maggie with vegetables to eat with tea. While this activity was on, some of the students who needed or wanted some extra time on a particular skill or wanted to speak to the instructors were given time to do so.

The evenings were for outdoor activities, outdoor games and mobility training. The evening walks were used for taking the students to the orchards and fields nearby so they could be acquainted with fruits and vegetables in their natural settings- such as guavas on a guava tree or eggplant on its plant. Time was also given for meditation and yoga, specifically for mobility and balance. Ms Alka Shrawne was the instructor for these activities and she had specially designed them to suit the visually impaired.

After dinner time was for some fun. Children from the Sobti Respite Care Centre stayed back to join in the fun on one night. There were some spirited sessions of Antakshari and some really lovely singing by some of the participants at the night assembly. At night the participants were free to talk till late and they were as chirpy and excited as any other young adults their age, discussing their lives, their crushes and heartbreaks, their hopes and aspirations.

This was one of the main aims of the camp, to enable these youngsters to experience life as normal care free young adults, mingle with each other and make friends. These informal sessions helped them to relax from the stresses of their daily lives, share their stories, and even dispel some phobias or myths about living as a visually impaired person. For example, there were some girls who never picked up the phone if the number was unknown – the others assured them that there is no harm in speaking to anyone on the phone. Similarly some had never travelled alone by autorickshaw but learnt from others that it was possible to use Google Maps and GPS to reach the destination quite safely even by autorickshaw.

Most importantly, the participants from various backgrounds were brought together. Even if there was hesitation between the city students and the students from smaller towns, they soon forgot all their differences and made friends. In this the small town students took the first step and seeing their bold and confident approach, the city students shed their own inhibitions.

Life Skills Training

Communication skills and Personality Development: Ms Pallavi Shankar conducted this module. Here the focus was on social communication - on how to develop an outgoing personality and make friends. Visually Impaired also have to many times seek help from their sighted peers and colleagues. Communication skills are a must for developing the confidence to interact freely with everyone. Motivational videos by Mr Sandeep Maheshwari and others on YouTube were played for the participants. The module also included a session on personal grooming and dressing skills.

Technology in Daily Life: This module was titled ‘Enabling Android Mobile Apps for Independent Living, Education, Employment and Career’ and conducted by two Visually Impaired high achieving individuals, Mr Prashank Naik, a senior Public Sector Bank employee and Mr Saidarshan Bhagat, a senior Government official. The module included introduction to various apps that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. The discussion included the apps: SuperSense, Be My Eyes, NewsOnAir, Kibo, Simply Reading, NewzHook, XL Cinema, SpellTree, GooglePay, Google Voice Access, Google Maps and BHIM App. Mr Saidarshan Bhagat also gave information about his own Accessibility Blog online.

Family Life Education: This was a special module on a topic very rarely touched upon for Visually Impaired or differently abled persons. Ms Ashmira Hamirani Thakur, a Masters in Social Work conducted this session. The aim was to talk openly about the daily frustrations faced by a Visually Impaired person - within the family and amongst peers and friends and find positive solutions for handling these feelings. Ms Ashmira’s own life stands as a beacon of motivation for the participants. She is Visually Impaired, married to a Visually Impaired gentleman and has just had a child 2 years ago whom she and her husband are taking care of without any outside help, not even family’s help.

There was also a session on personal safety and precautions against sexual abuse during this module.

Heroes in Real Life

This session was centred on the interview of two of the participants themselves: Ms Kavya Hari and Mr Prathamesh Dalvi. Both of them, apart from being visually impaired also had to face the serious issue of kidney failure very early in life. Both of them have had kidney transplants. Their stories of every day courage in the face of such extenuating circumstances moved each and every participant as well as the volunteers. Ms Kavya spoke about how she struggled to get out of the mindset of a person afflicted with sickness and gained confidence and boldness with the help of her parents. She is currently studying BMS (Bachelor of Management Studies). Mr Prathamesh spoke about how he has used sports to overcome his disability and sickness. He is a marathon runner and his father is his running partner. He is an inspiration to his sister who is also visually impaired. He is studying for a BA.

While this was not a part of the session, another courageous act must be mentioned here. Ms Kajal, studying in Nanded, herself visually impaired, took the responsibility of bringing a younger girl student from a more interior area near Nanded to the Camp. They both travelled alone by train to Kalyan and made their way back home from Mumbai Central after the Camp. Ms Kajal sings in an orchestra while pursuing her studies. She showed selflessness, courage and compassion in doing this kind act. She was one of the friendliest participants at the camp.

Sobti Respite Care Centre

This report about the Winter Camp would not be complete without a few words of praise about Sobti Respite Care Centre, its management and staff. Sobti Respite Care Centre was set up by Sobti Parents Organisation in 2017. This facility provides a healthy working and living environment for children and youngsters with multiple disabilities and helps them maximize their limited potential to lead a happy and satisfying life. It is not an orphanage. Children stay here during the week and go home on weekends. The long term objective is to provide permanent care for such persons after their parents are no more.

The facilities and arrangements at the centre were excellent. The management went out of their way to accommodate all the requirements of Snehankit Helpline camp participants. Apart from charging a very nominal amount for the camp, they even organised bus pick up and drop at a subsidised cost. The staff were very warm and friendly, taking special care at meal times to serve delicious hot meals every day.

Happiest Time

The camp was a success not only in imparting all the skills and training that the Snehankit Helpline Team wanted to teach, but also in the aim of having the participants feel the kind of freedom and bonding with others like them that they rarely feel in their day-to-day life. The participants said this was the happiest they had ever felt. They felt free of stress and anxiety, made new friends, broke out of their shells and laughed to their hearts’ content. Many wished the camp would be for one month instead of only for 4 days. That was the biggest compliment they could have paid to the organisers and volunteers.

A Life Skills Training Camp for Young Adults was conducted under the aegis of Snehankit Helpline at Sobti Respite Care Centre at Wada, near Mumbai from 26th- 30th December 2019. The aim of the Camp was to give these youngsters a taste of independence outside of their home environment and teach them life skills.

Twenty five visually impaired young adults between the ages of 16 to 22 years attended the Camp. There were 17 girls and 8 boys. Of these, one boy with partial vision came forward to assist the others as a volunteer apart from participating himself. The participants were all students studying in Junior College (11th and 12th Standard) and Senior College (BA, BMS etc). They came from all over Mumbai, Thane, Pune, even Nanded and Hingoli.

After the success of the Summer Camp for younger children in April 2019, the idea of having such a camp for young adults was mooted. While these youngsters are at the cusp of adulthood, they are rarely given responsibility at home or the independence to manage themselves by their family members. The Camp aimed to teach them skills that they would use in their daily lives apart from bringing them together with young men and women of their age group.

Camp Highlights

The Camp was meticulously planned by Ms Pallavi Shankar and Ms Sampada Palanitkar of the Dombivali Centre. Ms Megha Barolikar who has newly joined as faculty at the Dombivali Centre also joined the Camp. The volunteers who ably supported them and made this camp a success were Ms Alka Shrawne, Ms Mrunalini Gupte, Ms Janhavi Joshi, Ms Geeta Subramaniam and Ms Sandhya Tanpure. In addition, volunteers who visited, bringing with them goodies and treats for the participants were Ms Jayalakshmi (Sandhya) Bhujang, Ms Alka Chakradeo, Ms Revati Yevlekar, Ms Seema Garde and Mr Aditya Dhanavade.

On 26th December, all the participants, volunteers and faculty gathered at Thane Railway station. A mini bus was organised to bring everyone to the venue at Wada in Thane District. The first day was used for orientation and getting to know each other. All the participants got a tour of Sobti Respite Care, its facilities and also their dormitories. The highlight of the evening was everyone getting to know each other and the budding of friendships between the participants.

Daily Activities

On the remaining days of the camp, everyone woke up at 5.30 am and got ready for a walk by 6.30 am. The walk lasted up to 1 and half hours. The length of the morning walk was intentionally long to build up the stamina of the participants because they were not used to such a lot of physical exercise in their daily lives. The idea was also to get them used to walking on uneven surfaces and use the cane for walking. Many of them were not used to the cane and were shy to use it. The walks helped to overcome this shyness.

After the walk and some hot tea and biscuits, exercises termed ‘Activities of Daily Living’ were conducted. These included tips and techniques to take care of themselves and practice skills that they sometimes didn’t do at home, such as cutting their own nails or washing clothes or braiding their own hair.

Following delicious hot breakfast the day’s structured programme would commence. These included modules on communication skills, personality development, technology for daily living, family life education, recognising heroes in daily life (more on these to follow).

The late afternoons were spent in learning basic cooking skills. Each day the snack item for the evening tea was prepared by the students with help from the volunteers. They learnt to wash, peel and cut vegetables, put together simple snack items such as Bhel Puri, Dadpe Pohe, Maggie with vegetables to eat with tea. While this activity was on, some of the students who needed or wanted some extra time on a particular skill or wanted to speak to the instructors were given time to do so.

The evenings were for outdoor activities, outdoor games and mobility training. The evening walks were used for taking the students to the orchards and fields nearby so they could be acquainted with fruits and vegetables in their natural settings- such as guavas on a guava tree or eggplant on its plant. Time was also given for meditation and yoga, specifically for mobility and balance. Ms Alka Shrawne was the instructor for these activities and she had specially designed them to suit the visually impaired.

After dinner time was for some fun. Children from the Sobti Respite Care Centre stayed back to join in the fun on one night. There were some spirited sessions of Antakshari and some really lovely singing by some of the participants at the night assembly. At night the participants were free to talk till late and they were as chirpy and excited as any other young adults their age, discussing their lives, their crushes and heartbreaks, their hopes and aspirations.

This was one of the main aims of the camp, to enable these youngsters to experience life as normal care free young adults, mingle with each other and make friends. These informal sessions helped them to relax from the stresses of their daily lives, share their stories, and even dispel some phobias or myths about living as a visually impaired person. For example, there were some girls who never picked up the phone if the number was unknown – the others assured them that there is no harm in speaking to anyone on the phone. Similarly some had never travelled alone by autorickshaw but learnt from others that it was possible to use Google Maps and GPS to reach the destination quite safely even by autorickshaw.

Most importantly, the participants from various backgrounds were brought together. Even if there was hesitation between the city students and the students from smaller towns, they soon forgot all their differences and made friends. In this the small town students took the first step and seeing their bold and confident approach, the city students shed their own inhibitions.


Life Skills Training

Communication skills and Personality Development: Ms Pallavi Shankar conducted this module. Here the focus was on social communication - on how to develop an outgoing personality and make friends. Visually Impaired also have to many times seek help from their sighted peers and colleagues. Communication skills are a must for developing the confidence to interact freely with everyone. Motivational videos by Mr Sandeep Maheshwari and others on YouTube were played for the participants. The module also included a session on personal grooming and dressing skills.

Technology in Daily Life: This module was titled ‘Enabling Android Mobile Apps for Independent Living, Education, Employment and Career’ and conducted by two Visually Impaired high achieving individuals, Mr Prashank Naik, a senior Public Sector Bank employee and Mr Saidarshan Bhagat, a senior Government official. The module included introduction to various apps that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. The discussion included the apps: SuperSense, Be My Eyes, NewsOnAir, Kibo, Simply Reading, NewzHook, XL Cinema, SpellTree, GooglePay, Google Voice Access, Google Maps and BHIM App. Mr Saidarshan Bhagat also gave information about his own Accessibility Blog online.

Family Life Education: This was a special module on a topic very rarely touched upon for Visually Impaired or differently abled persons. Ms Ashmira Hamirani Thakur, a Masters in Social Work conducted this session. The aim was to talk openly about the daily frustrations faced by a Visually Impaired person - within the family and amongst peers and friends and find positive solutions for handling these feelings. Ms Ashmira’s own life stands as a beacon of motivation for the participants. She is Visually Impaired, married to a Visually Impaired gentleman and has just had a child 2 years ago whom she and her husband are taking care of without any outside help, not even family’s help.

There was also a session on personal safety and precautions against sexual abuse during this module.

Heroes in Real Life

This session was centred on the interview of two of the participants themselves: Ms Kavya Hari and Mr Prathamesh Dalvi. Both of them, apart from being visually impaired also had to face the serious issue of kidney failure very early in life. Both of them have had kidney transplants. Their stories of every day courage in the face of such extenuating circumstances moved each and every participant as well as the volunteers. Ms Kavya spoke about how she struggled to get out of the mindset of a person afflicted with sickness and gained confidence and boldness with the help of her parents. She is currently studying BMS (Bachelor of Management Studies). Mr Prathamesh spoke about how he has used sports to overcome his disability and sickness. He is a marathon runner and his father is his running partner. He is an inspiration to his sister who is also visually impaired. He is studying for a BA.

While this was not a part of the session, another courageous act must be mentioned here. Ms Kajal, studying in Nanded, herself visually impaired, took the responsibility of bringing a younger girl student from a more interior area near Nanded to the Camp. They both travelled alone by train to Kalyan and made their way back home from Mumbai Central after the Camp. Ms Kajal sings in an orchestra while pursuing her studies. She showed selflessness, courage and compassion in doing this kind act. She was one of the friendliest participants at the camp.

Sobti Respite Care Centre

This report about the Winter Camp would not be complete without a few words of praise about Sobti Respite Care Centre, its management and staff. Sobti Respite Care Centre was set up by Sobti Parents Organisation in 2017. This facility provides a healthy working and living environment for children and youngsters with multiple disabilities and helps them maximize their limited potential to lead a happy and satisfying life. It is not an orphanage. Children stay here during the week and go home on weekends. The long term objective is to provide permanent care for such persons after their parents are no more.

The facilities and arrangements at the centre were excellent. The management went out of their way to accommodate all the requirements of Snehankit Helpline camp participants. Apart from charging a very nominal amount for the camp, they even organised bus pick up and drop at a subsidised cost. The staff were very warm and friendly, taking special care at meal times to serve delicious hot meals every day.

Happiest Time

The camp was a success not only in imparting all the skills and training that the Snehankit Helpline Team wanted to teach, but also in the aim of having the participants feel the kind of freedom and bonding with others like them that they rarely feel in their day-to-day life. The participants said this was the happiest they had ever felt. They felt free of stress and anxiety, made new friends, broke out of their shells and laughed to their hearts’ content. Many wished the camp would be for one month instead of only for 4 days. That was the biggest compliment they could have paid to the organisers and volunteers.


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