Only a few places can claim to make learning as much fun as it is in the environs of a childhood play and learning centre, Latika Vihar. A start-up of the Latika Roy Memorial Foundation, Latika Vihar was created to provide children with a place to discover their own creativity and take part in new activities in a pressure free environment. The aim was to make children feel free and unfettered without stress of any kind of competition, a scourge of modern Indian education today.
The Latika Roy Memorial Foundation was started in 1994 by Mr. S.C. Roy, former house master at the Doon School, in memory of his wife, Latika. This foundation primarily deals with child development activities as well as starting centres to develop the skills of people and children with special needs. At present the Latika Roy Foundation is running 6-7 projects in Dehradun.
To get a first-hand look at the working of this initiative, your reporters from DehradunBuzz visited the Vasant Vihar centre of Latika Vihar. The Vasant Vihar centre of Latika Vihar is an integrated play centre as both ordinary children and specially abled children interact and play together.
One of Latika Roy Foundation’s pioneering work has been in the field of helping people with special needs. They run remedial classes for people with learning difficulties and also for people with other special needs. These classes are not just limited to children as centres for helping adults suffering from autism have also been established. One of their venture involves a centre which can identify autism in children at an early age and is located at the Doon Hospital. It has been set up with the help of NRHM and has been christened “Gubbara”.
Speaking to DehradunBuzz at the Vasant Vihar centre, Mrs. Hema, centre coordinator told us about the steps taken by Latika Vihar to help people with special needs and their efforts to integrate them in the mainstream life, “We have various facilities for specially abled children, like physiotherapists, speech therapists and conditioning experts. Our main aim is to make sure these children can take care of themselves in daily lives. Apart from helping them in early stages, we also run vocational training courses for them when they grow up so that can find means of sustenance and lead as normal a life as possible.” She also commented that, “One of the major problems which have been repeatedly observed in the process of integration of people with special needs in the society has been the lack of awareness and knowledge about such people.”
Mr. Rajesh, another coordinator, said, “Very often parents express reservations about their ‘normal’ child spending time with these special children. We have to explain to them that this process will only enhance their child’s thinking and help him to better understand these children. This in the long run is extremely beneficial as we have people who can sensitize others about this important issue. We arranged for a meeting between the parents of the normal kids and children with special needs and it proved to be very successful. People are now more open to the idea of their wards mixing and helping these children out.”
Mrs. Hema adds, “We have had a great response in terms of volunteers from the various schools of Dehradun. The students come here and voluntarily help us in the management during their holidays. It is really heart-warming to see them try and help these children. Also, these students help in removing misconceptions through awareness campaigns and awareness groups.”
Although as of now Latika Vihar is limited only to Dehradun, efforts are being made to expand this initiative to other areas as well. And seeing their dedication to such a noble cause, we wish them the very best in their efforts and hope all Doonites will pitch-in in their own small ways to help this cause.