Yesterday was an amazing day. I know that Cindy has written before about Shristi Special Academy. It is one of the charities that the OWC supports with funding for projects. The school is about 1/2 hour drive outside of Bangalore, which means about a 1 hour drive for us. This place is amazing. They have over 140 children with Special Needs (Autistic, Downs, ...) who come daily to school there. They also work with some local children, to provide a good school for the local kids, plus have some non-disabled children for the special needs children to interact with. They are located on the outskirts of a village. They have a nice grounds with vegetable gardens where they try to grow their own vegetables for the students and staff. They have classroom environments, physical (and other) therapy rooms, and they have workshops to teach skills to the older children. We ate lunch in the workshop at the end of our visit and I saw they make paper bags out of recycled newspapers, candles, and other things there.
Anyways we were lucky enough to go along with some representatives of the OWC (Cindy being one of them) to a "Christmas Party" they were throwing. I think it was partly a celebration for the children, and partly a thank you to the OWC, and HP who support them. The opening part was some readings and thank yous, then the OWC sang Christmas carols, which the children really enjoyed. Then there were some Bollywood tunes played, and the children got to sing and dance. They loved that part. Then came the best part for me. The OWC had supplied pencil cases with a pencil and a couple of sweets for each child.
While the children were outside playing games, I went to the office and changed into a Santa suit. Maya and I were waiting there with the gifts for the children to go to their classrooms. One boy, must be a young teenager, came into the office. He stared at me for a bit, then his eyes went wide when he figured out who I was. He immediately went outside mumbling about Santa. It was priceless. One lady from the OWC had brought an accordion. So I was proceeded by a group of carolers, and got to go to each classroom and hand out the Gifts. The smiles, handshakes and general awe on the faces was priceless. I think I got the biggest gift of all.
This is a great memory to take away with me as we plan our trip back to CA for the holidays. It is a bit bittersweet. It is hard to see the children with such severe problems, but it is astonishing to see the care and love they get, and the happiness on their faces at Shristi. Such a wonderful place, built with such humble means.