IN 2003, a heart-wrenching incident left Chitra Shah who was then volunteering at a hospital, shell shocked. It was the sight of a 13-year-old differently-abled girl, shackled and confined to a chair, in a dimly lit room while her mother, a daily wage labourer, toiled to support the family. This tragedy, however, was not an isolated case; it mirrored the painful reality of countless differently-abled children and adults across the nation. In the shadows of society, people with disabilities have remained one of the most ignored and underserved segments. Since its inception Satya Special School has been a saviour for thousands of children with disabilities giving them the care that only the affluent could afford. But today Chitra is struggling to keep her work going. 

Fueled by a deep-seated desire to reach the unreached, Chitra founded Satya Special School as a safe space for children with disabilities. Situated in Puducherry, it was established as an integrated centre for disability rehabilitation. Its core mission: to provide free, high-quality rehabilitation services to those who are underprivileged. Yet, Satya’s vision extended beyond rehabilitation. It aimed to empower children with special needs, eradicating the prevailing social stigma associated with disability.

Satya’s inception marked the beginning of a transformative journey. Its roots were planted in empathy, and its branches have spread far and wide, encompassing various critical aspects in the field of disability support.

Identifying high-risk newborns

One of Satya’s pioneering initiatives is the Newborn High-Risk Clinic, located within the Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER). This clinic stands as a beacon of hope and care for infants at risk of developmental delays. It’s not just unique; it’s the only facility of its kind in the region. Over the past two years, this clinic identified over 2,500 at-risk newborns, with 50% of them receiving the essential rehabilitation and counselling services they needed.

Crucially, every service provided by Satya is entirely free for children from Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. And the impact is profound; about 75% of Satya’s beneficiaries hail from BPL backgrounds.

The heart of Satya today

As of today, Satya Special School serves as a day care centre, offering rehabilitation and intervention services for over 1,000 children. These children grapple with various conditions, including Mental Retardation, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Multiple disabilities, Down’s syndrome, Learning disabilities, slow learners, and muscular dystrophy.

Satya is a multidimensional force in the disability support landscape. It operates early intervention centres in collaboration with JIPMER and provides therapeutic interventions such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, sensory integration therapy, alternative therapy, and neuro-developmental therapy through three urban centres. Furthermore, Satya manages three Village Rehabilitation Centers catering to rural children and operates a mobile therapy unit that provides home-based interventions, covering 44 villages across five municipal communes.

The educational initiatives undertaken by Satya encompass open schooling through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), Alternative Inclusive Centers for Education, and remedial education. A vocational training unit has also been established for adults with disabilities, empowering them with valuable skills.

Inspiring partnerships and advocacy

Satya Special School’s impressive track record of excellent services to the differently-abled community is bolstered by its professional partnerships with corporate entities and foundations. Annually, Satya educates approximately 1,000 children with special needs across its campuses in Pondicherry and in rural centres around Pondicherry. They have the remarkable ability to create special projects tailored to the unique needs of people with Intellectual Disabilities, adapting these projects to various geographies in collaboration with multiple partners.

Notably, Satya’s advocacy efforts have reached tens of thousands of individuals in Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu, raising awareness about inclusion and disability rights. Their stringent reporting and evaluation processes ensure that corporate partners receive transparent, timely, and accurate reporting. At Satya, funders are seen as genuine partners, and they’re invited to join hands in ideating and executing social inclusion projects.

A bright future through inclusion

The story of Satya Special School is one of hope, transformation, and a steadfast commitment to making a better world for differently-abled individuals. It’s a testament to the power of compassion and the potential for change. Satya’s journey inspires us to acknowledge the often-overlooked in society, to advocate for their rights, and to work collectively for a more inclusive and compassionate world.

This organisation has set a shining example of how dedicated individuals and partnerships can transform the lives of those in need. Satya’s journey is a reminder that each one of us can play a role in creating a more inclusive and caring society. It’s an invitation to be part of this incredible journey, to extend a hand to those who need it most, and to spread the message of compassion and inclusion far and wide. 

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