Indian NGO to build community for disabled children and their families

Families will live in one or two-bedroom homes in the community, with dependents staying in supervised homes

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An Indian NGO is working to set up a community in Bangalore for children with special needs and their families.

Akshadhaa Assisted Living, which will be built on the outskirts of Bangalore, will start welcoming families in 2025.

It will also serve as a retirement home for older parents, who can live alongside their children or other family members in the assisted-living residence.

Akshadhaa Foundation, the umbrella organisation that will build the community, already operates a special school, vocational and therapy centre for children with disabilities.

We want to share the hope that there is a good possibility that we can make our children’s lives better even when we are not around
Anirban Dutta, trustee at Akshadhaa Foundation

The non-profit said it aims to collaborate with parents in the UAE, share their know-how, and even invite families to be part of the assisted-living community.

A group of parents of children with neurodevelopment disorders came together to establish Akshadhaa Foundation in Bangalore in 2012, and the charity now aims to create a global network of like-minded parents, starting with families in the Emirates.

Anirban Dutta, a trustee at Akshadhaa Foundation and parent of a 19-year-old with autism, said: “Every parent of a child with special needs has a question on their mind, which is ‘who will take care of our child after us?'

“We want to share the hope that there is a good possibility that we can make our children’s lives better even when we are not around.

“We will be happy to connect with parents in the UAE so we can share our learning and we would also be happy to host them in Bangalore.”

The foundation helps people with special needs to access vocational training, gain diplomas, work in a bakery or even get a job.

An exclusive community for people with special needs and their families

Construction work on the Akshadhaa Assisted Living project will start soon.

While families will live in one or two-bedroom homes in the community, people with special needs will be able to stay in purpose-built studios where they can learn life skills and live independently.

The community will have a special needs education centre, an open-air amphitheatre, a sensory garden, a medical centre, green spaces, a waterbody, and a vocational centre.

Pupils during a class at Akshadhaa Foundation. Photo: Akshadhaa Foundation

“If families are interested in joining us we are open to including them,” Mr Dutta said.

“Some parents from the UAE have approached us.

“The parents are contributing to the extent of Dh354,911 ($96,640) to Dh443,639 per family to purchase both residential spaces (two separate units ― one for themselves and one for the dependent).

“The day-to-day operational expenses of running the facilities, canteen, managing the estate, security, special needs intervention management, maintenance of the equipment, etc, will be in the range of Rs40,000 (Dh1,773) to Rs50,000 (Dh2,217) per family per month."

Mr Dutta said parents from different parts of India had visited the foundation to understand their work. He said the goal was to help parents who were on the same path and could be struggling. He said he wants to help families avoid the mistakes he made.

“We used to go all over the city of Bangalore, taking our daughter to a physiotherapist or to an occupational therapist or a speech therapist,” Mr Dutta said.

“These are the challenges parents face today as they go from pillar to post trying to find something better for their child.

“One of the things which we started was to have all these interventions under one umbrella so that parents were spared the agony of talking children to multiple professionals and getting different feedback."

He said previous assisted-living models resembled retirement homes, where young people with special education needs could live but not thrive or engage in activities.

He spoke of the physical and mental toll that caring for a child with neurodevelopment disorders took on families, and said parents needed to be cared for too.

The Foundation is recognised as a public trust under the government of India.

It is supported by parents who contribute as well as by corporate and wealthy donors.

Mohandas Nair, a retired mechanical engineer in Bangalore, will live with his family at the Akshadhaa Assisted Living project.

"I am a retired person and would like to stay in a community with security and medical help available 24x7," Mr Nair said.

"My daughter is 35 and has an intellectual disability, and she will stay on the same campus, which will take away a lot of concern."

He said he was happy the project has been conceived and executed by parents of children with special needs.

"They have proven programmes which have enabled my child to learn and work on vocations of her choice," he said.

“Apart from the learning, I foresee an engaged and joyous life for my child at Akshadhaa even after I am no longer around.

“It will be gainful employment and my daughter can also have an opportunity to earn, which will improve her self-esteem for a dignified life."

Updated: January 24, 2023, 1:32 PM