Therapeutic residential center for people with special needs

“Humanity in Action” – the mangaloretimes.com

From “The Mangalore Times Network

Mangalore: In the modern world most of the people are in a rat-race for fulfilment of their selfish goals. They strive for wealth and material needs, but most often fail to achieve real wealth- satisfaction in life. Their world is full of stress and tension.

In such a world, only few people tread a different path. They find satisfaction in service of the humankind. Keerthana Kumar of is one of such rare persons, who has dedicated her life for the service of special and underprivileged children.

While everybody grumbles about their income and aspire for more, Keerthana left her high-paying job with an American company to find her spiritual fulfilment.
The Special Children Care Centre started by her is taking care of 15 mentally challenged children at present. She is living with them, taking care of them as a mother would do.

This rare, humane and bold gesture of Keerthana inspired her friend Ashley Fernades, who too left his lucrative job five years ago and spending his time taking care of these children. For these children Keerthana and Ashley are like parents now.

Riya Foundation : Humanity in Action

The organisation they are so dedicatedly running is called RIYA Foundation.There is a heart-rending story behind this endeavour.

Keerthana, originally from Kodagu had studied in St. Agnes College in Mangalore. She had a sister called Bhavana, who was differently abled. She grew up under the motherly care of her elder sister. Keerthana after higher studies, joined an American company, where the salary was lucrative. She married a doctor, who is working in Dubai. Her family life was happy.

However, call it anything; their first born child too had the same problems as her younger sister. Name of this child is Riya. In her name this foundation has been established.

Now, this organisation is stationed at a rented house in Kulashekara. Five trained caretakers are looking after these children.

Everybody cant venture in to such humane and unknown paths, due to their own compulsions. Anyway we could appreciate such dedicated efforts and extend a hand of help.

We do not know whats in store for the future but we believe in today. If I can help to get a smile on a face I have accomplished what we have set out to do, says Keerthana. Tête-à-Tête with Keerthana Kumar, an inspiration, a friend, a guide, and over all a mother.

What is “Riya” the organisation about?

Riya is a residential, recreational center for people with special needs. We are facilitators to education, rehabilitation and empowerment. The facility is a therapeutic residential center for young people, ages one to adult with a different learning environment. The place provides a positive atmosphere designed to build competence to thrive socially. Our comprehensive learning environment supports the success of students’ learning differences. The institute provides round-the-clock teaching and care tailored to students’ various needs. The term ‘special needs’ can apply to any number of issues, including social, behavioral and emotional disorders and we cater to students with any of these issues. These kids afford several advantages, including round-the-clock teaching and care and the specialised attention many public schools are unable to provide. They can also foster a sense of independence among the students.

Riya Foundation : Humanity in Action

Why did you start an organisation for the differently abled children? What is the story behind the organisation?

Keerthana, the Founder Director at Riya was at a well-placed point of her career when she had to choose between the perks her job provided and her daughter. For oblivious reasons she choose the latter. During this time she began introspecting that challenges faced by a parent of a special child. There are huge barriers to face personally in the family and socially. One literally isolates oneself from the society.

During this period she decided to help working parents by setting up a respite care for these children. With 2 kids in it instantly became a hit. With an advantage of being a special educator and a teacher’s trainer her skills only helped in seeing drastic behavioral improvements in these children. Named after her daughter Riya not only focuses on quality but is a limited admission center with an average of 15 inmates with her daughter included. From Keerthana to all the kids including her own all stay at the same premises and eat the same food. Today Riya Foundation has grown up to be a big family.

Riya Foundation : Humanity in Action

 What are the things taught to these children?

First and foremost kids are loved and cared like at home. Here they are given individual attention and are assisted at every step. With round the clock staff to manage the children the concept of teaching beyond four walls is implemented. The kids are taught to wake up and make their beds, have bath on their own (with assistance from the care takers), set the breakfast table, dressing on their own, they are trained to eat their breakfast and rush with their school bags to the van to be dropped. The kids below 18 are taken to an integrated school to mingle with new faces and the once above 18- years- old are taken to a computer training center called Riya learning center.

Riya Foundation : Humanity in Action

What do they do after they attend school?

Once back from school the kids are provided with snacks and helped to change. An evening walk with exercise is a mandatory entertainer. Once back its- TV time and thereon for a home work session. The kids are taught, basics like understanding money, use of text messaging, do and don’ts, writing, drawing, singing and dancing etc. Once done its dinner time and there on some recreation and then hit the bed. This keeps their mind busy and body fit. In short there are treated to be like you and me.

Riya Foundation : Humanity in Action

Till date how many children are studying with?

We are into our fourth year of operation. We currently have 14 kids on roll. And mentioned above we are a center focusing on quality rather than quantity. In total we have worked with around 50 children across various ages.

Riya Foundation : Humanity in Action

 Are there special teachers who are a part of the organisation?

Keerthana is a certified special educator. She also visits institution to train teachers and conducts various workshops. Apart from this she has a sister who is a special child along with a daughter too, can’t ask for someone more than this exposure.

What are the age groups they belong to when they come to Riya?

We are open to all age groups. We are a center looking at benefiting the parents too. We do understand that with the kids aging the parents are getting old too. It’s difficult to match their strength.

Riya Foundation : Humanity in Action

Do parents take them home regularly?

We work on a yearly model. Once the kid is admitted at Riya we give its 3 months of probation. During this time we see if the kid gets adjusted to the new environment, mostly which they do. Once on the roll they are given leaves twice, once in April for summer holidays and once during October for Dassara. This enables us to focus on the child and work on their behavior. In case of a special request the kids is always allowed to be taken home.

 With what kind of disabilities enroll at Riya? With every student every need is different, how do you cater to all of them?

Riya is open to helping anyone with any kind of disabilities. We do not see it as a disability, we see it as a hurdle and we ready to help them overcome it. We currently have children with Down Syndrome, Autism, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, MR and Physical Disabilities, etc.

Riya Foundation : Humanity in Action

There are other schools in the city for differently abled students, why do parents prefer to send their kids to you?

Riya is not a school. We are a Facilitator to Education, Rehabilitation and Empowerment. We believe there are many institution to teach them academics but very few to Facilitate. We believe in providing nutritious and healthy food, life skill training that will help them in their survival. Riya is a place where they are provided with loads of happiness and care. They are treated like home. We visit the malls, beach, functions, restaurants, movies theaters and social gatherings. Our aim is to empower them to live in the society.

 There is very little awareness of such kids in the society, what do you have to say?

There is awareness but, there is lack of support. People try to show pity but that’s not what’s required. They need to be seen with respect and dignity. They want to be standing among one of us. There like to work at the same place where you and me go to work. They want to be accepted like they part of the society.

Riya Foundation : Humanity in Action

 What are the fees, parents have to pay to get their children enrolled?

Ours is not a free center. The fees are decided based on various factors. If the applicant is bed ridden and needs a full time care taker then the fee could vary. The residential facility holds a limited number of applicants and we have heavy overhead expenses to meet, such as heavy electricity and water bills, teachers, matrons and care taker salaries, kitchen and conservancy staff, plus the salaries of ayahs, rent and groceries etc. All these payments have to be made whether we have one applicant or all, the facility can hold: hence we take a monthly fee based on the kind of disability. As our donations are not regular, we use them to subsidise on medical expenses, dippers or on purchase of kids’ requirements.

What are the various activities that these children do?

Ours is like a home, so we do everything that will help them become independent. Occupation therapy includes gardening, washing clothes, cleaning windows, computer games, painting, writing, dancing, playing with animals (dogs), cycling, playing football etc.

Riya Foundation : Humanity in Action

Have any of them won any awards?

I am not sure if this would constitute to be an award but few of our achievements are as mentioned below:

·Our proudest moment was when Rohit a mute and deaf who joined us smiled after 3 years. He was 16 then.
·When Sidharth whose parents left him asking us just teach him to read and write achieved 63 % in SSLC (Matriculation)
·When Kiran’s mom took him back home for holidays for a family function and all the relatives who had gathers complimented the parents for his exuberant display of discipline.
.When Arjun, whose parents had to lift him and make him sit and did not know his parents left, today eats on his own, walks and even smiles when he sees his parents, is an achievement more than any words can describe.

 Is this a very satisfying job or do you miss the job you initially worked for? Do you plan to work in a company in the near future?

Let me tell you the truth. This job involves a lot of challenge. There are times we have cried in a corner. But heart of heart we think this is the best decision we have taken. There is no joy that any job can give you, to see a kid smile. When a parent comes to you crying and to help them is priceless. When during tough times your staff telling you, don’t worry we will overcome this, is nothing like team spirit. I do not see God but I feel him in every child I deal with. He is always around with us in the work we do. I don’t think any career in the world can give you peace as it does with these children.

To look after so many children you must need financial help, where do you get such help from?

Yes, getting funds is a huge challenge especially if you have been in a corporate with a well-paid job. Initially, we invested all the money we had, our savings, borrowings and loans. Like the saying goes “If he puts you in, he will lead you out” God has blessed us with an awesome family who has always stood by and supported this dream. Friends and colleagues too have chipped in. Today we are looking for a place of our own. Steady funding can help secure the kids and lesser the burden from the parents. Funding remains the biggest challenge in this endeavor.

What is your message to the public? What are your ideas for the future?

“I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.” – Mother Theresa

Life is simple and we need to learn to hold hands and respect mankind. During troubled times, it is not money or shelter that we seek, it’s the human touch. Let’s join hands in making disability ability and giving strength.

We do not know what’s in store for the future but we believe in today. If I can help to get a smile on a face I have accomplished what we have set out to do.

Riya Foundation : Humanity in Action

 

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Address & Contact

Riya Hope Farm
No. 2-21-111/2
Valley view villa, Kotimura,
Padavu village, Kulshekar Post,
Mangalore : 575005
Karnataka, India.

Contact :
Email: [email protected]
Phone : +91 7892-317978 / +91 824- 2231181
Office timings : Mon - Fri 9am - 5pm

Disclaimer

"Riya Foundation” is a registered trust (non-profit organization -155/2009-10 IV) registered with the Commissioner of Income Tax under 12-A of the Income Tax Act bearing No. R-57/80G/CIT/MNG/2011.12, established in the year 2010. Your donation is tax-deductible under 80G. We run a residential recreational facility for the people with special needs called "Riya Hope Farm", currently located at Mangalore (India).