The Jai Vakeel School is one of the oldest and largest not-for- profit organizations in the country serving children and older individuals with mental challenges and other related disabilities. Unfortunately, this group, especially those from the low-income families, are neglected, for a lack of awareness of the challenges they face, as well as pervasive superstitions and social stigmas. The Jai Vakeel School has dedicated itself to uplift this extremely neglected segment of our community by providing holistic assistance to such individuals in the departments of education, health care, support services and skill development and over the past 66 years, has served thousands of special children and their families.
On Friday, the 2nd of December the students of std. 7 visited Jai Vakeel. Most did not know what to expect. Some anticipated that sorrow would consume them after the visit and others were excited to experience the differences and similarities. On arrival, the students were briefed on how the foundation began, its purpose and other details. After the presentation the students were divided into groups to meet everyone in the school. Some played sports, learned how to make candles and agarbattis as well as various other activities. The most amazing part was that the Jai Vakeel students make at least 300 agarbattis a day in contrast to ours, who were struggling to make even one.
“This foundation has changed the way I look at any ‘ extraordinary ‘ person. Thus, my classmates and I feel extremely privileged to have had this experience and we will be returning to Jai Vakeel again soon to meet our new, life-long friends.“ – std 7 student.
In mid December, students of grades 9 and 10 had the opportunity to visit the
Jai Vakeel campus and interact with the students there. On arrival they were shown a presentation on the history of the institute, its motto and the children who study there. Then on the campus tour, our children saw the Jai Vakeel students while they were engaged in various activities, ranging from cooking to candle and agarbatti making. The enthusiasm with which the children described the tasks they had undertaken, and
their visibly evident attention to detail and pride in their work was inspirational.
People often assume that disabilities correlate to a lower quality of work, however this notion was readily abandoned on our visit. The skill, patience and even dexterity required to perform some of the tasks they did with ease, was immense.
After our campus tour, there was a yoga session with students from the Primary Intermediate section of the school. Every BIS student was assigned up to two buddies, who were assisted with the asanas. People often assume that simply because the children are intellectually challenged, they will be physically challenged as well. However the vigour with which they executed all the asanas, disproved this belief.
Students were also given the opportunity to interact with their buddies, to get to know them better. Each of the students who visited the campus, found various similarities between themselves and their buddies, and delight in the invaluable connections that were formed.
A student from the 10 th grade described how before the visit, she held the pre-conceived notion, that the children at the institute would be different from her and unable to do the same things she did. However her opinion changed, on meeting and connecting with the children. She reflected on how the visit reinforced how similar they were to them and that people need to learn how to look beyond the childrens’ outward appearance and their own false assumptions to understand how capable they really are.
Another student from the 9th grade was able to help his buddy move past a previously traumatic experience in his life and provide his buddy with a non-judgmental, listening ear to express his innermost feelings that he had never been given the chance to
After the enjoyable yoga session, our students visited the skills development
classrooms, where the students of the Jai Vakeel school are given vocational training. They were shown how to carry out the tasks by the students themselves, with gusto and delight. Our students were able to work alongside their students and admire their
“The visit to Jai Vakeel emphasized how a disability can truly be “this ability”, that we have never seen before, and how the amazing children at the Jai Vakeel school are similar to us, and yet so unique in their individual way.” – grade 10 student.