PUDUCHERRY: Sathya, a 30-year-old, who has cerebral palsy is often found with a book at home for the intellectually disabled where she lives. She was brought there when she was 10 years old after her parents died. Over the years, the training and care she received has helped her transform into a budding writer. She is among the 45 residents of Baby Sarah’s Home who are chasing their dreams, aided by J Stephenraj and the caretakers.
“At first, with proper training, I developed reading skills and then started writing poetry. Later, my poetry collections were compiled and published as a book titled ‘Nimirthu Kondal Kavithai Sathya’. It was later translated to English as ‘Raising High’ with the support of some writers,” said Sathya, sharing her journey. She is on the verge of completing her second book and is also taking online training to write short stories. Tamil writers like Bhava Chelladurai are training her to develop writing skills and the home has arranged over a hundred books for her to read. Sathya’s notable short story collection ‘Thiruvalluvar Thatha’ was also praised by the Sahitya Akademi.
Inspired by her, Marudhu from the same home aspires to become a writer. He has started a campaign, ‘Green Wheels’, through which he plants saplings on empty lands at schools and private organisation premises. In the past year, he has planted over 600 saplings by the seeds he collected.
Similarly, several others in the home have cultivated interests and have been working hard to be a paragon. On the terrace garden at the home was Ragu (22), busy gardening. “I cultivated tomatoes, ladies finger, and I have now planted brinjals, too,” he said.
Explaining his interest in farming, Raghu took this reporter along to a small banana farm behind the home where he has planted over 50 banana trees. A week ago, he got his first yield. The vegetables are mostly used for cooking in the home and the remaining are given to people in need. The home has another entrepreneur in the making. Aravind, a 27-year-old and the highest earner to date in the home, has earned Rs 18,000 by selling seed balls to a wedding function recently. He also collects fallen coconuts and plants them to grow. Aravind bought a mobile phone with his hard-earned money recently, said a proud Stephen.
Eighteen-year-old Pratap, is into aquarium-based works. He grows aquarium plants for sale along with fish. When asked about his techniques, Pratap said he learned them all through social media and had been practising them with the support of caretakers at the home. The residents are motivated and are pursuing what they want because of Stephanraj. The home has been providing all the possible support to the inmates and has been making them shine in the field with available resources to boost their confidence and also to better their health.
“My father, AP Joseph, started this home 30 years ago and I am taking care of it after his death. The children are mostly orphans and the remaining are from poor background families. In the beginning, we gave them usual training within four walls, but this raised various health issues among children including obesity. Following this, a decade ago, we decided to bring them outside and provide them with field-based training according to their interest,” said Stephenraj.
Talking about the future plans, he added, “We concentrate on developing self-esteem and self-confidence in our children which will help them in the future. We are also taking steps to establish a sports complex for special children. It is a big dream for me to construct this complex and provide children training in sports. I am sure they will achieve hugely in the field of sports too.”