| Dean R. Thompson has lunch with students and (below) mingles with children of Sishu Sarothi on Friday. Pictures by UB Photos |
Dec. 14: It was a day with a difference for the children and staff of Sishu Sarothi today. After all, it is not always that they are paid a visit by the consul general of the US or a royal scion.
The entire campus of Sishu Sarothi, a special school for the differently-abled, wore a jubilant look with brightly coloured Christmas stars and balloons hanging from the ceilings and branches of an old tree in the courtyard. Children dressed as Santa Claus were waiting at the entrance to receive the guests and celebrate Christmas.
US consul general Dean R. Thompson and the Maharaja of Tripura, Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Burman, were at Sishu Sarothi to interact with the differently-abled children as well as participate in a discussion on disability issue with representatives of different organisations working for the welfare of the differently-abled here.
Jeffery Reneau, director of the American Center in Calcutta, and Anna ’Neil, economic officer of the US consulate, Calcutta, were also present on the occasion.
The discussion was followed by some light entertaining moments during which several children sang Christmas carols for the distinguished visitors. The consul general and Maharaja Deb Burman were seen encouraging the children as they performed. While a few kids sat on the verandah and cheered their peers, a few could also be seen enthusiastically clicking photographs of the gathering.
Speaking on the occasion, Thompson said, “I feel privileged to visit the children, as such interaction between different organisations helps in raising awareness on disability issues. Nowhere across the globe are we utilising the available resources enough on the disability sector. In US, the American with Disabilities Act has helped immensely in making life easy for differently-abled individuals by making it mandatory for all service providers to ensure that they have access to all facilities. Even while constructing a building or road, the builders have to make it user-friendly for such people. Hearing aids and Braille materials have to be provided to the hearing and visually impaired. All libraries also have such facilities in place for them.”
“Besides, my wife is also a special teacher and I have seen how much effort one has to put in to take care of a differently-abled child. Given the opportunity, such children can definitely become an asset for their families and countries,” said Thompson.
“The different NGOs here are doing a great job in trying to detect disability at an early stage so that the differently-abled can be equipped properly in order to lead a good quality of life. I will definitely be happy to welcome these organisations to work in my state. There are several government policies for welfare of the differently-abled, but their proper implementation is the biggest problem we face. If we as a society do not care about them, we will never grow as an individual,” said Deb Burman.