On a hot September morning,I made my way to Badlapur, to meet up with Mr. and Mrs. Ravindra Sugwekar, who run one of Give’s listed NGOs for special children, Sangopita. Little did I realize how humbled I was going to be by my experience of the day. Sangopita was set up by Mr. and Mrs. Ravindra Sugwekar when they were unable to find viable long-term care for their special child Aditya. They tried to find an appropriate home for him, failing which, they decided to set one up for him. This basic, non-fancy, bare-bones setup is home not only to Aditya but to 45 other children too. And though sparing a setup, it provides these children with the care that they need.

Sangopita has a daycare as well as a residential facility. Children from the vicinity who are not severely disabled come to the daycare center. Those who are severely disabled and those whose families reside out of town are housed at the main residential center. Most families come visit their wards at these centers on weekends. The daycare center currently caters to 30 children and the residential center to 45 children.

The children who come to Sangopita’s centers suffer from Cerebral Palsy or Autism, some have multiple handicaps and others are slow learners. These children undergo therapies – occupational, physio and speech. Given their condition, the focus is on games that will hold their attention or those that will help improve their grip/grasp on things by improving their muscular movement. As the children age, the focus shifts to vocational training. All activities are essentially catered to help make these children self-dependant and enable them to lead as normal and healthy a life as possible.

Of course this is not an easy task. And if you ever drop by at Sangopita, you’ll understand how inordinate amounts of patience are required to work with these children. That’s exactly what I noticed on my trip. The day I visited, Diwali preparation were on too. I saw teachers patiently working with students (of all ages, young children to full grown adults) to make diyas and also weave mats. The unfortunate truth is that many students, given the severity of their condition, cannot make these items on their own. But participate in the process gives them a sense of accomplishment like no other. The staff also informed me that the kids enjoy festivals and love to sing, dance and dress up.

Sangopita is situated a good half hour from Badlapur station. Trek down one day for a truly humbling experience. Try and make it on a festive day and tons of happy faces are sure to welcome you.

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