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 semi-residential and day boarding formats.
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.
The year 2020 with the all-encompassing COVID-19 crisis has been a year of many restrictions and turbulence. It has also been a year where we have had many learnings about health, safety, and hygiene maintenance.
The decision to open our Nelamangala campus in November 2020 was a tough one, as we weighed the need for our children to interact with each other, and the health and safety of others. We were thus quick to enforce our COVID protocols on our facilitators, administrators, support staff and the children, along with their parents.
Mandatory protocols on Campus:
- Wearing of masks is mandatory in the bus for all and is encouraged on the Campus by everyone present.
- The bus that transports the children to Campus is 50% occupied at all times in keeping with social distancing norms.
- Frequent sanitization and use of hand wash is ensured while boarding the bus, entering the campus, and throughout the stay on campus.
- Temperature checks are conducted at regular intervals, before boarding the bus and before entering the campus.
- Recurrent cleaning of all frequently touched surfaces on the Campus is ensured through use of disinfectants.
- Any staff member traveling outside of the state of Karnataka is asked to provide a COVID negative test before being allowed on the Campus.
A glimpse of our sessions in Uhuru
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 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.
After being apart for months and sailing by on the online platform, we opened the doors to our new Nelamangala campus in November 2020. Despite only being here for a short while, we at Snehadhara have witnessed first-hand what our community can achieve and the benefits it brings us as people living and working together so we felt it was pertinent to celebrate the opportunity of sharing this space with each other.
That seed of thought sprouted the theme for this year’s Summer School- Hum Saath Saath Hain!
This year, we intend to unite our children, parents, facilitators, staff, family, and friends under one roof – the SF campus – through the months of April, May and June to revel in the richness and diversity of Indian cultures.
- The term would be divided into cultural categories, providing children with the opportunity to learn about different cultures in our country.
- Parents would be encouraged to come and teach the children about their own cultures by engaging in conversations as well as activities like painting, dancing, singing, drama, hobby building,discussing their careers, etc. (All Covid-19 safety protocols would be followed). One day of the week would be dedicated to these activities, and another day of the week would revolve around teaching children different vocations from that culture (that can include cooking an ethnic dish, making a product, teaching a craft, etc.). Making full use of the sun out and about, we would also be engaging the children in gardening, making papads, pickles, and many more summer activities.
- Incorporating a few days of fun and relaxation are central to this year’s theme. One week would be solely allocated to relaxing together, with grooming, hair spas, etc., for all our children and facilitators; allowing everyone to come together and have some fun!
- At the end of every 4 weeks (mid May and mid June), stalls would be set up within the campus so that the children would have the chance to display what they have created throughout the month to others. Parents, families, and friends would be welcomed together into this space to have a day of fun and frolic, appreciating the work put forth by all our children.
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’.