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Shalini Pai

Here is her story in her own words.

We visited India in early 2014. During that visit, in a conversation with my mother's cleaning lady Vasanthi, we found out about Chetana school for the mentally challenged kids/youth. It is near Vithobha temple in Mangalore.  Vasanthi's son Dayanand is a student there. But Vasanthi was finding it very hard to pay the tuition, transportation and other incidentals on a monthly basis. And was seriously contemplating pulling Dayanand out of school.

So we decided to visit the school and find out more. It has a beautiful campus. 74 students attend this school with different needs. And a dedicated team of volunteers, teachers, physiotherapists and speech therapists work there to provide these children a safe and caring environment and teach them to be fully functional and independent.  And most importantly instill in each a sense of worth.
Apparently a third of the cost is borne by the families. And the rest by donations. This institution does not get any subsidies or govt. aid. It relies solely on the generosity of individuals in India and abroad. The portion of the cost per student passed on to a family ranges from $160 - $250 per year depending on the severity of the handicap.

Vijay, my son who graduated last year and is working as an entomologist in Wisconsin, instantly offered to support Dayanand so that Vasanthi could continue to keep him in the school...... The main reason being.......that the school is a safe place for Dayanand when Vasanthi is busy earning for her family. Dayanand also loves being in school. He looks forward to wearing his uniform every day..... Because he knows what happens next...... He gets to ride to school in a rickshaw. He smiles and starts clapping with sheer joy when he reaches school.

Next day during breakfast, Vijay told Vasanthi that he was going  to pay the tuition and other incidentals for Dayanand and she could henceforth be worry free. The outpouring of sheer affection and the almost hysterical tears of joy that broke loose and the child-like ebullience that besieged Vasanthi was probably the most humbling experience we all had in our entire lifetime!

In a recent email from a volunteer at the school, we found out that there are 8 additional students who needed help because their  families were in extreme hardship.  Additionally, the school was in need of approx. $950 for uniforms, which would otherwise be passed on to the 74 families.

This request did not seem impossible, so I decided to reach out to my extended family here in the USA. We sponsored one child and my extended family jumped in to sponsor the other 7 children. And many sent in donations for the uniforms. So the immediate needs were met.
But Chetana still needs our help on an ongoing basis. And on your next visit to Mangalore please visit this school to see the good work being done there.

Please visit the following website for more information.'

I thank Gopal Bhandarkar and KCF for coordinating this effort and sending the monies to Chetana school.


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