By Ankita Thomas, SCN
Love has no barriers of language or culture. This has become evident at the Navjyoti Day Care Centre in Kathmandu, where Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and volunteers are helping the often-forgotten or neglected members of society flourish and find support.
The Navjyoti Day Care Centre currently serves 65 differently-abled students between the ages of 6 and 25. Over the past many years, several Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have served at the Centre, and at present, Lisa Perekkatt, SCN, heads up the program.
The students are divided into groups based on their chronological and mental age — which includes a junior group, pre-vocational group and vocational group for those 18 years and older. Among those who find help at the center are students with mild to moderate mental impairments, Down syndrome, ADHD, Autism, behavior challenges and varying degrees of learning struggles.
A brief history of Navjyoti Centre:
On Aug. 25, 1978, a small center was opened for children with mental disabilities in Kathmandu with three boys and two girls by Father Adam Gudlefsky, a Maryknoll priest from the United States. This unit marked the beginning of people changing their attitudes toward differently-abled children. Instead of hiding them away, they were now given a chance to provide for their children the needed domestic, personal and social education hitherto denied to them. In 1983, the center was handed over to Mr. George and Mary Cheru as Father Adam returned to the United States.
In February 1988, George and Mary left for their native place, and the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth took up this center to continue this outreach program for the neglected children of society. From then on, the center came to be known as Navjyoti Day Care Centre. It was registered under AWMR, the Association for the Welfare of the Mentally Retarded, on May 13, 1988. AWMR is a legal body registered under the Social Welfare Council, which gives direction to and implements various programs through different centers in Nepal. In 1990 the Nepal Nazareth Society was registered as an NGO, and later the center came to be known as School for the Mentally Handicapped.
The school aims to educate differently-abled children to be good and useful citizens as far as their capabilities permit and to help achieve some measure of personal independence and personal happiness. By acknowledging, accepting and respecting children with disabilities as valuable members of society, Navjyoti recognizes their potential and abilities and helps them toward their holistic growth to make a contribution to their communities.
Navjyoti students do not follow the syllabus of a typical school. Instead, their daily routine is based on various activities. Some of these activities include self-help skills, language skills, singing and storytelling, drawing and painting, dance, yoga, speech therapy, games, physical exercises, physiotherapy, swimming, play therapy and health education classes.
In addition, the school provides vocational training and a literacy program. The school takes pride in preparing the students for Special Olympics and Sports and ensures their participation in such events nationally and internationally. Other activities held are educational tours, picnics and celebrations of special occasions such as Children’s Day, Parents’ Day, Social Service Day etc. Involvement and active participation of parents in the school is ensured by holding parent meetings, health education classes for parents and home tours. Similarly, the teachers are also given training from time to time. Students are evaluated on a bimonthly basis in order to motivate them.
The students of Navjyoti are very affectionate as well as talented. The teachers can recognize each one’s talents and help them develop those gifts. Some of the students are excellent in artwork, and some excel in sports. The students of Navjyoti have participated in the Special Olympics, which is conducted nationally and Internationally and have won many medals.
Parents are happy with the care we give to the children. They appreciate the syllabus, the family atmosphere in the school and the loving ways we deal with the students. Navjyoti Centre is blessed with committed and dedicated teaching and nonteaching staff who happily carry forward the vision of the school.