Monday, January 16, 2012

Enabling the Disabled, 2012

Children at mid-day lunch at Shri Arunodhayam
All concentration! Road Safety Poster Contest

Despite some unexpected events during this recent trip to Chennai (Dec, 2011), I managed to do two projects for the Sukriti Social Foundation: a craft workshop for special educators for mentally challenged children, and jurying a road safety poster contest. Sukriti is a non-governmental organization that I support. Founded by Sowmya Simhan (my sister), it is a  cross-disability organisation based in Chennai (Tamil Nadu, South India) that addresses key disability issues with initiatives in the areas of prevention, rehabilitation, employability and advocacy. (Sowmya too is a victim of childhood polio.) My support for Sukriti usually takes two forms: (1) donation of funds from sales from my handmade shop Dharmakarmaarts and (2) free arts and crafts workshops. (During my visit to India last year, I conducted a jewelry making workshop to a group of physically challenged young women at the Andhra Mahila Sabha.)

I. Paper Crafting Workshop: I was requested by Mr. Iyyappan, who runs a home for orphaned mentally challenged children called Shri Arunodhayam, to conduct a craft workshop for his special education teachers and care-givers. 

Good lunch and Happy Smile!

After much back-and-forth, I decided to do a paper crafting workshop for them. One of the core principles that I follow in teaching these workshops is that the tools and the materials used are economically priced and locally available and, the techniques are accessible and sensible (no burning of Tyvek paper here!). The goal is that the participants, should they choose to, be able to continue with the craft after the workshop on their own. With that in mind, I took a collection of stamps, inks, punches and papers from my own stash for use by the participants. Though my own stash was American bought, I made sure that equivalent materials are available in India. 

The workshop participants were from both sexes--all of them have vocational training in special education. None have been exposed to paper crafting tools like punches or stamps. So, it was a totally new craft experience for them. I started it small with tag decoration and then moved on to decorating book covers.  Each participant first created a blank book using the slot-and-tab method and the proceeded to decorate the cover using scrap papers, old greeting cards, cut outs etc. They were like kids in a toy store, punching and stamping away to glory. Overall, it was a very enjoyable morning.

Happy crafters!

II. Road Safety Poster Contest: It may seem strange, but the biggest contributor to childhood disability in India is not natural diseases like polio, but road accidents. So, it is not surprising that organizations such as Sukriti that focus on disability put a lot of time and effort on raising awareness about road safety among school children. In addition to road safety workshops, Sukriti also sponsors poster contests at local schools. This year almost fifty children participated in the contest and I, along with another artist, juried the contest. I was impressed by their seriousness and many of the posters were creative and accurate on facts. It was tough choosing the winners! Here are some photos of the day and the winning entries.

Road Safety Poster Contestants

Tips on Becoming an Artist

Winning Entries

If you are interested in knowing more about Sukriti, please check out its website.

Thanks for visiting.

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