Wednesday 16 September 2015

How the Award Programme transformed differently-abled participants

Rupanjan Goswami, Award Leader, Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boy's Academy, Narendrapur, Kolkata reports on the Award Programme at the Academy.

Ramakrishna Mission Blind Boys' Academy, Narendrapur, Kolkata -- a pioneer institution for visually differently-abled boys in India -- has been participating in the International Award for Young People (IAYP-INDIA) since 2002. This institute provides various forms of support to the boys to assist in mainstreaming them into society.

The R.K.M.B.B.A offers multifarious activities inside one campus, such as a residential setting, vocational training centre, braille press, agricultural training centre, talking book production centre etc.  The ambience and infrastructure of the academy gives enormous support to the students for their all-round development, so that they become contributing members in our society. We aim to nurture them as leaders in our society and don't regard them as differently-abled; we encourage our boys to tap their potential.  With the introduction of the Award Programme, these participants proved that they do not need to be treated as differently-abled. The National Award Authority is treating our participants at par with other participants and this has boosted their morale and self-esteem. Our boys follow the same programme and perform the same tasks allotted to other students, successfully scaling all the parameters required by the Award.

We all know that the Award is challenging and not easily attained, but our participants accepted the challenge bravely, completing all the sections within the time frame.  Here is an account of the different activities in which the participants are involved. 

The participants undertake Service to develop a lifelong commitment to society as civic or social volunteers.  They take up different subjects as part of their Service Section such as Environmental Management, Cleaning drive, Braille teaching, Food Serving etc. in the school's hostels. All their activities are strictly monitored by the Award Leaders.  We have noticed the benefits of Service among the participants. The Service section of the Award enhances their patience, tolerance and feelings of fellowship. It helps them deal with fear, ignorance and apathy, which are the main barriers to achieve a sense of responsibility towards the society. We have also noticed an improvement in their communication skills and sense of responsibility.  The Award has helped them break the barriers and fears that inhibited them from being involved in social duties and responsibilities.

For their Skills section our participants choose one of these subjects: Chess, Clay Modelling, Classic Indian Music (Vocal & Instrumental), Computer (Jaws supported), and Hand encrypted Braille magazine production.  Under the supervision of concerned teachers and instructors the participants successfully complete this Skills section.  We have noticed their amazing transformation and the development of their talents.  Their self-confidence has been boosted as they become aware of their potentials.  After successful completion of the Award many participants have successfully established themselves as professional entertainers and performing artists. Skills section opens their scope to choose their livelihood too.


Our Award participants take one of these: Yoga, Swimming, Cricket, Football, Athletics (Track & Field) etc. as their Physical Recreation. Our Academy has a standard swimming pool and well maintained playgrounds. Under strict guidance of qualified swimming instructors and physical instructors and coaches our participants develop their physical ability and fitness and adopt a healthy lifestyle and habits.  Their sense of achievement emerges and they learn how to work as a team when they approach team sports like cricket and football.  

We are proud to inform that some of our Award participants among the best swimmers in our country.  These participants lift more or less all the medals and trophies in the State and National level swimming competitions for the visually challenged youth. Not only that our participants lift most of the prizes in the Pare-Olympic games, where they take part regularly. One of our participants took part in the International Para-Olympics in Germany.  In cricket our Award participants also lift trophies in National and State level tournaments consistently. We believe everything is going in the right direction due to the structured approach of the Award programme.

This is the most awaited section for our participants. They regularly take part in Adventurous Journeys to different, challenging, unfamiliar locations.  Sometimes it is altitude trekking in the great Himalayas, sometimes it's Coastal Trekking along the seashore of the Bay of Bengal and sometimes it is in the invincible mangrove forests of the Sundarbana. At other times they attend nature camps and rock climbing courses along with training on survival in different critical and hostile climatic conditions.

Since 2002, Adventurous Journey are being organised and evaluated by the the Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers (ICNL). Qualified, experienced and die-hard ICNL instructors supervise the Adventurous Journey segment strictly. There are no modifications or adaptations to make the Adventurous Journey of our participants smooth or easy. These visually challenged participants face the same challenges, same conditions and same tasks given to their sighted counterparts.  The participants enjoy the practical phase of strenuous rock climbing and survival courses.

This segment of the Award programme enhances their leadership skills, improves their planning and organizational ability, and helps to understand group mentality and dynamics and role of others along with their own roles. Adventurous Journey section develops their self-reliance, independence along with enhancement of their mobility and sense of orientation in the lap of mother earth.  Adventurous Journey improves their skills for working as part of a team and skills for overcoming challenges

To enhance experiences through involvement with others in an unfamiliar residential setting, our Gold Level participants take up different subjects for their Residential Project. Some participants choose activity based projects like outdoor sports, skills development by joining cricket and football coaching camps, some of them select environment and conservation projects in unfamiliar locations and work in restoration program of rural religious temples and mosques, village roads and dikes.  Some participants take personal training course like Spoken English course, Computer course, etc.

Our participants take all these challenges wholeheartedly and complete their Residential Project as perfectly as they can.  We get remarkable response from the society, Village people who tell us that they are being inspired when they watch our participants help and solve the village's problems with their own hands and can't resist joining in with our participants.  We feel great when we see our participants successfully strike on the apathy of the village people for their own problem. This is what we can call leadership. We also notice that our participants are getting accustomed to unfamiliar places and unknown people with enriched sense of responsibility and communication skills.  They are able to build new relationship with different people regardless of their age, race and religion.  We believe this segment broadens our participants' outlook and horizons, which is the sparkling philosophy of the Award.

Our visually challenged participants have emerged as leaders in society after successful completion of the Award and their education in our institution.  A few decades ago visually challenged people were subject to be ignored and were often considered permanent liabilities of society. But assimilation of the philosophy of the IAYP with the ideology of world famous spiritual organization Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama has changed the scenario.  Our participants emerge as the leaders in society.  In their life they become teachers, lecturers, professors in the schools, colleges and universities. Some of them join in different Govt. sectors and private sectors companies even as IT professionals.  Some of them choose different types of business, like one Award participant has established his own FM radio station along with an ultra-tech sound recording studio.  Some of them are working as radio jockeys.  Some participants have founded a professional rock music band named X-RAF, which has attracted national fame within a short span. Click for pictures

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