SkillCorps India is just starting our second week at SOREM. Last week was a week full of amazing new experiences, triumphs, and challenges. In addition to our on-going work in the classrooms, we were honored to be invited along with Sangeeta to a neighboring private school for their world disability day presentation. The presentation, which was given by class 8 (12-13 year olds, I think), included two plays, a poem, and an interpretive dance about acceptance of disabilities. I was asked to give a brief talk about the importance of disability awareness.
The presentations given by the students were incredible. We were all blown away by how much the students seemed to really understand the importance of accepting individuals with disabilities. The school, Sopins, currently accepts students with disabilities to the best of their ability and integrates them into typical classrooms. The students help to support them and really care about them, as was evident by their presentation. Watching such young students providing such a clear message that “people with disabilities are people too” in a culture in which the message is still so radical was inspiring beyond belief. I felt like I was seeing the future of the country in front of me. The performances impacted everyone in the room, including their teachers and parents. One of the teachers even said to us afterwards, “I am a mom, and I truly feel that the problem is not just with individuals with disabilities. As a culture, we need to accept our children more. We judge them so harshly and it has to start with us. We need to accept our children whether they have disabilities or not”.
Above all, though, my favorite part of the day was watching Sangeeta, our partner in India, talk to the teachers after the presentation about her own experience and SOREM. She told them about her son with autism, and what it was like to be a parent of a child with autism, which I know took a lot for her to do. She told them about SOREM, and the teachers were so engaged that they asked how they could possibly help. Sangeeta talked about how the high school students from Sopins might be able to come over and volunteer with the students from SOREM. They talked about creating a mock store so that SOREM students could get practice with shopping and money concepts. It was like watching history being made—I could see how the students at SOREM and the students at Sopins might be working together to form a beautiful, inclusive partnership the next time SkillCorps comes to visit, and I was just grateful to be a part of it in some small way.