Uhuru’s curriculum design is geared towards enabling children to acquire the tools needed to navigate the daily practicalities of life while also preparing to deal with some of the larger questions that life asks every child and adult.
The Uhuru programme is the bedrock of our Direct Care work. Held at our lush Nelamangala Campus, it consists of learning and growing through a semi-residential programme from Monday to Thursday, along with a day boarding format.
Here, learning is embodied for the children and their families through many experiences provided by a range of facilitators, ABT and API practitioners, external faculty, visiting artists, peers, interns and volunteers.
Along with meeting the learning outcomes, our semi-residential facility works as a service delivery model that looks at the mental health and well-being of the not just the children but that of their families and the caregivers, the communities in the neighbouring village and schools.
Why do we need Uhuru ?
“Uhuru” in Swahili, Arabic, Urdu, Turkish and some similar languages, stands for “freedom”. As the name suggests, the Snehadhara Foundation’s vision for its children and adults with special needs is nothing short of uhuru.
Their special needs notwithstanding, we believe that the needs and preferences of those with disabilities should be at the centre of their learning trajectories, defining the services and support they wish to receive from their surrounding communities. These preferences and needs drive the system of services and supports that enable them to live the lives they truly wish to live.
Our focus is on creating a space where compassion is an integral part of daily living—with respect to the self and with others; resilience is built to deal with all that comes in the path; attention and observation skills are honed; emotions are acknowledged and negotiated; learning flows from connection with each other and an understanding of the larger interconnectedness of all where everything emerges naturally.
The children stay here without their parents, under the care of an extensive, expert team of caregivers. They gradually learn to do things more independently, all the while under the caring gaze of supervisors and practitioners.
Intent of on-Campus Learning
- Activities of Daily Living (ADL) are no longer merely sessions but a way of life on Campus, as our happy campers grow into a cohesive community and understand their restructured relationships from a family and social perspective.
- Independence in terms of thought, deed and expression is our aspiration and goal, while the children will be facilitated to function at ease in all given circumstances.
- Reassurance for parents as they find more time for self-care, secure in the knowledge that their children are experiencing greater autonomy and space for growth in a safe and monitored environment.
- Me-myself time for the children will be spread across the day to not just include serenity in solitude but also to occupy oneself, meaningfully and productively. Our children will be invited to focus on developing hobbies and getting oneself involved in interactions and activities “at (their new) home,” based on individual interest.
A glimpse of our sessions in Uhuru
These will be early morning sessions – right at the beginning of the day, in the beautiful new campus. The children will explore the surroundings using different senses. In these sessions, the children will make contact with the new campus, using different senses. This might include walking barefoot, exploring various sounds, textures and fragrances in the rich natural context.
The objectives of these sessions are to take the children into a world of sounds and music. In these sessions, they would be exposed to a variety of musical instruments and day to day objects which produce a variety of sounds. They will explore wind instruments like the harmonica and flute, string instruments like ukulele and bulbul tarang, percussion instruments like drums and cajon, and several other instruments like the keyboard, xylophone etc.
Embodying kinaesthetic awareness though movement, music and play is what these sessions will be about. They look at integrating some conventional, some structured, some experimental, some fun, some playful and some improvisational movements, allowing us to dig into the unknown. The child will be facilitated to discover something new within themselves in this fascinating physical space of expression. The Thakadimitha sessions will be full of experiments with rhythm, footwork and so on!
The campus offers a beautiful opportunity to be more curious about what our senses are picking up from the environment around us. In these sessions will be on working with three basic sensory experiences – visual, auditory and tactile. We will be looking at different areas under each of these senses. Movement, colour and light around us will be examined under visual; the effect of volume, pitch and rhythm will be explored under auditory; different textures, movement, wet vs dry surface exposure will be delved into, under tactile.
The group will be divided into two sub-groups for language acquisition. Level 1 will be about vocalization, basic vocabulary and Simple Sentences. Level 2 will be about descriptive speech and Story Construction.
At our pottery shed in the campus, we will get a chance to play and squeeze, pat and pound, poke and pinch clay. We will learn creatively to enhance our understanding of texture, shapes and forms by rolling, cutting and making multi-dimensional shapes. Whether we roll the clay to make a snake or thump it to make a cake, manipulating the clay will develop the fingers and hands muscles, improving hand and eye coordination along the way. The sessions will progress into the children working on the wheel in the second semester.
These sessions encompass the diversity and inclusion of the various art forms of India- styles of music, languages, dance forms, visual art, storytelling and so on. The dance element involves, learning different dance forms briefly, dressing up in dance costumes, watching videos and performances and likewise. The visual arts sessions will introduce the group to block printing, Bandhani, Kalamkari, rangoli making and so on.
Academic concepts will be tailored to suit individual needs and facilitate comprehension, composition and application aspects of language, maths and science concepts. The goal will be to develop reasoning skills, creative thinking, abstract or spatial thinking, critical thinking and problem solving. Basic math concepts that are required in our daily living will be our area of focus. Understanding the concepts of time, money, proportions, measurement and numerical skill, comprehension and basic environmental concepts along with health and hygiene will be a part of the curriculum.
Taking advantage of the vast open spaces and crisp sunlight available to us at the campus we plan to get our hands dirty with the soil and reap what we sow. The activities will involve establishing gardening rules, clearing up and preparing the soil, creating pathways and beds and create our kitchen garden with ample love, water and nutrients.
These sessions will be about getting immersed in Nature by talking to trees and creatures in the environment, contributing to the growth of our natural surrounding and observing the secrets of nature silently and contemplatively. The goal will be to open spaces for the children to find themselves in Nature through observation and association with Nature.
These sessions look at expression and application of creative skills and imagination using paints, crayons and colours. From using hands and feet as art applicators to getting introduced to different forms of painting like sponge painting, vegetable stamping, toothbrush spray painting and many more techniques, these sessions will be more than a splash of colour.
Life on Campus — The Individual and the Community
Akin to a village raising a child, it takes each of us within our SF community to work together to create a holistic and symbiotic space of shared experiences and co-existence. Each one on Campus is exposed to a wealth of experiences, a great many of them being linked to working together and creating inclusive circles which in themselves help create a therapeutic relationship.
Along with meeting their learning and therapeutic goals through Arts Practices, the children engage with cooking, meal preparations, cleaning, nature walks and observation, caring for things and for each other. They learn the fundamentals of expressive and receptive language through an exposure to Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu and English.
Simultaneously, the one-on-one sessions with the children focus on their skills in terms of their individual physical, social, emotional, and cognitive needs. Each child works with one project each term.
We have also chalked out how the children and the support team can spend quality time together on activities outside the classroom: 1. Through making wholesome and delicious masalas or pickles that go into the meals that we cook together; 2. Through providing immense nourishment, love and care into growing a variety of plants and vegetables on Campus such as bottle gourds and gooseberries.
The semi-residential format (Monday-Thursday) encourages the children to build their independence with activities of daily living as a part of their hostel life. Participation in community living offers one a chance to look at one’s relationship with self and others.
Just as we keep evolving, so do children and their yearning to meet their own goals. Ongoing research and studies by our research vertical, ‘Vinati’ allows us to observe and assess the effects of such a set up in the Indian context for individuals with special needs.
A typical day on the Campus
Our dedicated kitchen and support staff are up and about before the crack of dawn, to ensure the children wake up to a clean space and a hot meal. Meanwhile, the facilitators and children gear up for the day fresh of face and eager to begin a new day.
Circle Time commences after breakfast at 8:00 am where everyone gathers to speak of the day’s events, make important announcements, and sing together. This culminates in a morning chant before the children disperse to their respective activity rooms for their sessions. The day’s sessions are interspersed by short tea/snack breaks and a longer lunch break that includes some nap time.
Every day we engage with a combination of art forms such as dance and movement, rhythm and music, cooking, and visual art, among others. These indoor and outdoor activities stimulate the individual’s curiosity and creativity in myriad ways, making room for holistic development.
The evening time following the last session is when the children at the Day Boarding Programme and the Semi-Residential Programme part ways; with the former going home after a day’s learnings and the latter move into their one-on-one sessions to work upon individual projects.
Following that is the much-awaited evening walk around the premises. The children look forward to soaking up some vitamin D and feel the cool breeze across their faces, comforted by the serenity of an area far removed from the bustling madness of city life. During this time, some children and facilitators also volunteer to help the kitchen team with dinner preparations.
As soon as the team returns from their walk, they step right into a period of quiet introspection or observation before heading to their rooms to change and ready themselves for dinner at 6:45 pm. This is an ideal time for the children to practice their activities of daily living and step towards self-reliance.
Post dinner assembly is a time to enjoy some themed music—classics from the good ol’ days or contemporary hits that move a crowd. This also presents the opportunity to sing and dance along, or simply relax in the company of others before retiring to bed at 8:00 pm.
Once the children are tucked in, the facilitators meet for a quick catch-up to confirm that everything is set for the next day. After that, it is “lights out” and everything is hush-hush until the next day. Thus, begins our routine once again!
Firm believers in respecting Mother Nature and her produce, we have planned our Campus the activities relating to our children in a manner that focuses on sustainability. We are taking steps in augmenting our alternative energy resources. Most of our energy needs are harvested through solar panels. We are fairly conscious and judicious in the usage of water. The grey water is recycled for use in our garden and in our toilets. The rainwater harvesting system on Campus allows us to store up to 82,000 litres of water and help us during the summers.
The Uhuru program opens its portals to each new year at Snehadhara with the Summer School program. Over the years though the program has evolved in form and content, it continues to retain its intent of providing children vivid experiences within and outside the centre that serve to enhance their goals of social interaction and independence.
- 2021-2022 Hum Saath Saath Hain
- 2020-2021 Alice in Wonderland
Plans for the summer school ‘Hum Saath Saath Hain’ began early this year and we were all excited to roll it out in an elaborate fashion. The theme we decided to settle on was an exploration of various states from our country and learning about their culture, traditions, cuisines and a lot more of their unique features. However, when the 2nd wave of the pandemic hit us, we quickly realised that we had to once again transform our curriculum to suit the online format. We were crushed but safety came first so overnight, we shifted everything online and revamped our curriculum; keeping the essence of it intact. Ironically, the title became more fitting to the situation, reflecting how, despite the physical distance and difficulties that many have faced at the hands of the virus, we are all still together in spirit. It encouraged us to enjoy the moments of joy and togetherness with the children and frankly, that’s pretty much what our summer school was all about.
Click below to find out the adventures that we went on during our summer school!
It was a hot, sleepy afternoon when Alice saw the White Rabbit scurrying by. She didn’t find it remarkable until he pulled out a pocket-watch from his waistcoat and mumbled about being late. Now she simply had to follow him. And that is how Alice fell down the rabbit hole, got catapulted right into Wonderland and met some of the most interesting characters ever.
Wonderland or Nelamangala is where the all the Alices (children and adults, boys and girls, men and women and all alike and different) of Snehadhara will spend the oncoming summer. Waking up to a wonder-filled experience unlike anything known before is what Summer School 2020 is about. Themed ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ the Summer School is about new experiences, yes, but more than that about transitions. It is about getting comfortable in a setting away from the family, meeting (strange) new people and creatures, and all their individual and collective quirks. Summer School 2020 is about understanding and experiencing growing in all directions not only up and that too outside the home. And yet, about finding home within. It is about finding release from the stress of city traffic and waking up to the sound of silence in tree-lined avenues. It is about befriending monkeys and squirrels and caterpillars and also about chasing butterflies.
A new place demands new approaches and there may be many of those at Nelamangala. The idea of travel will take on a new dimension during the Summer School 2020. The first layer is about travelling away from home. There is travel from the city to the new Centre. Apart from that there is travel around the new campus – getting to know new plants and creatures and clouds and trees. There is travel to nearby landmarks and much exploration of the skills required in exploration and adjustment to completely new contexts. Most of all there will be travel well outside of the comfort zone of certainty.
In Wonderland, the same food will taste different and produce (possibly) better growth rates. This will be because this is Wonderland, of course, but also because the children and adults of Wonderland take on new routines in the brand new kitchen and dining area with experiences of cooking and cleaning and homemaking in a very new sense of the word.
When awake, many new dreams will be lived in reality by the students, facilitators and staff of Snehadhara Foundation. When asleep, they will hear the crickets weaving them newer dreams and feel the sprinkle of magic dust falling from the star spangled sky.
Our aspirations for Summer School 2019-2020 were to weave artistic endeavours in as many spaces, with as many people and through as many experiences as possible for our children-– delving into new crafts, exploring new territories, greedily lapping up experiences through our interactions with each other and the new people we meet, all leading to enormous learning and revelations of spirit.
The Summer School this year saw a lot more Artists at the Centre and also the children travelled within and outside the city. Themed ‘People and Places,’ this was a summer of travel and new friendships, brand new hobbies and colourful portfolios. New relationships opened up with skills previously unexplored, in places familiar and unfamiliar.
Every year we create new memories of what epitomises Summer Vacations. It has often been about visiting friends and relatives and making new friends in new places.
Summer School 2018-2019 presented Meil Milaap, as the focus of the month of April where we ventured out to each other’s homes and other welcoming spaces to share our ‘sunful’ joy and partake of the generosity of our hosts. We devised a large canvas for ourselves to harness every possible ray of senses to touch and feel and explore; there was song and dance and paint, lots and lots of paint and colour as well as food in many hues, textures and tantalising tastes.
We believe what we learn outside the classroom is equally and a lot more important than what we learn inside. Each year our Summer School edition brings to children experiences where learning is fun and fun is learning. Dhoop Dhamal 2017 offered expeditions into the world of culinary delights, object theatre, dance and movement and wondrous weaves. It paved the way for a different experience in the culinary world for our children. They cooked together, they served together, they powered their creativity and gave a kick start to the cafe ‘Obattoo’. The highlight of the summer school was the 3 day trip to Devaraya Samudra, an excursion that created learning opportunities beyond the confines of boundaries and opened up a world of beauty and warmth.
The summer school ‘Atota Lakmose’ this year was a six week program that saw a heterogeneous group of children- the children at the center, their siblings and friends- experience art in its various forms. The children together enjoyed sessions in visual art, storytelling, puppetry, baking, gardening, pottery, dance and movement, and theatre. The various learnings from the summer school culminated with an hour long performance at ‘Paradigm Shift Café’.