There were grey skies and Hyderabad was a bit nippy with the drizzling on a Friday morning. I was thinking to myself, on my way to Special Olympics, that I will relive a few moments of my childhood. I grew up with my Aunt (paternal) who was intellectually disabled and had a mind of a two-year-old; she was my best friend.
She died in January this year and my heart was sinking with thoughts of her. At the same time thought I would feel out of this world if I got to relive the laughter and giggles, and see that sparkle in the eye, by meeting the kids at Special Olympics today.
It stopped raining and sun was bright and shining by the time we got to the Children’s Guidance Centre. There were smiling faces and the kids gave us a Grand Welcome – the song they danced and sang was called “Grandy, Grandy Welcome”. Some of the children were wearing letters, spelling out ‘Welcome’. Each letter stepped out of the straight line they had formed and got me to clap and cheer. It made me feel so special as I got a pink rose. The girl who gave it to me (the first girl from the left in the picture above ) had a sparkle in her eye as I said, “thank you” and I got a smile back as an acknowledgement. So much high energy; so many happy faces…
One of the children we met was Vishal (pictured below). When I asked him if he was ok for me to take a picture, he didn’t answer the question as he struggled with speech due to his intellectual disability. I repeated my question in Hindi and asked, “how about a selfie?”
He had a huge smile and lifted his hands posing and wanted me to do the same. After we had done a few pictures, he took my phone and kept scrolling through the pictures and smiled at our selfie. He gestured for more and we did that for bit. After reviewing the new lot, and showing them to the other kids in the pictures, he reluctantly gave my phone back. And with promising eyes, smiled as a gesture for “yes” or “thank you”.
His mother told me that she is glad that he is picking things up so quickly and there is a school for him. Forty years ago, I know for my Aunt there wasn’t any school and my grandmother would not permit her to go out of the house for fear of being looked at or talked about.
I realized that there is world out there more challenging than my own. These children still have dreams and smiles. They need just some love and lots of attention to have a childhood. I am so proud of being a part of IKEA: One day at time—Caring for People and Planet.
We spent time with teachers and parents. The hardship and their challenges probably shook each one of us. We asked them what can we—IKEA—do for you? They said, “Continue the support as it counts”.
The games at Special Olympics are great way to get the young participants to build on their hand, foot and eye co-ordination. Our next visit was to Spurthi School. It was 42 degrees and I was amazed at the excitement that I could see with the kids. The heat did not beat them down and their excitement lifted ours.
A quote on the wall read:
“It is not the Arms, Legs, Eyes or Ears but
Spirit that makes Man.
Man shall be judged for what he can do
Rather than what he is unable to do.”
The games had begun and there were cheers and applauses with every step.
We made bridges and tunnels. We laughed and had absolute fun.
I feel so privileged that I am part of IKEA. The IWitness trip showed how much the IKEA Foundation does and I wasn’t aware of the number of intellectually disabled kids there are, just in Hyderabad (around 70,000 kids), and how tough it is for the parents and teachers. The day was fun-packed and the kids were so excited to meet us. They change your perspective…they changed mine.
All of us were a bit different when we headed back home. Something had changed inside. It was a great day and there is a need to do more. I think I was absolutely lucky to have been a part of the IWitness trip this time and think everyone should meet the kids from Special Olympics, who steal your heart away and have a magical way of saying, “Life is so beautiful”.