Sangeeta has an energy that is contagious. She is our partner in India – the person who runs the training for staff at SOREM. But while Sangeeta is able to waltz around the center with the poise and professionalism of a tenured staff, she is simply a volunteer following her heart. I know my sentiments are echoed by all SkillCorps team members when I say that I am astounded by her commitment to the cause for autism in India.

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Sangeeta’s journey with autism began after her own son’s diagnosis, who attends SOREM. She has been a crusader in her community. Upon arriving in India, she enthusiastically announced the government will host us for a workshop! Sangeeta, Liz, and myself presented to teachers from Sectors 20-50 about the signs and symptoms of autism, as well as how to include the children into a typical classroom. For many teachers, it was the first time they had heard of autism. For others, it was the first time they considered the possibility of teaching a child with autism. We declared as a team that even if one walks away with the hope of inclusion, it was an afternoon well spent.

I have watched Liz and Sangeeta develop a special bond – both mothers of sons with autism on the brim of adulthood; Sangeeta soaking up Liz’s own hopes for her son and possibilities for his future. Watching a credentialed expert and an enthusiastic volunteer trade knowledge, accomplishments, and cultural understandings of autism has fostered a devotion and eagerness for the vision of the Global Autism Project to come to fruition.

We’ve spent ample time being cared for by Sangeeta and her family. Home cooked meals, trips for Mendhi, rides to SOREM, and an empathetic heart have made this trip especially meaningful. We’ve listened to fears of the future overshadowed by wreckless optimism. India will accept individuals with autism. The children of SOREM will have a place inside their community.

Photo Credit: Caroline White

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