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Development Centres

Children with Disabilities from rural poor communities are particularly disadvantaged,treated with fear and suspicion by people, even by their own families at times. Specialised care and happychildhoods are hard to come by in circumstances already stretched by the struggles of daily life survival.

RDT started organising group of PWDs in villages in 1993. As Vikalangula Sanghams (PWD collectives) started identifying the various issues that confront them, they found that while children with physical challenges could enrol in existing educational institutions, children with other disabilities needed special schools. Between 1996 and 2002, RDT started schools for the intellectually disabled (ID), visually impaired, hearing and speech impaired and those with Cerebral Palsy (CP). It initiated Specialised Education programmes in 1990 and later on, added Physical Education to the curriculum. Eventually, technical and vocational training programmes for these children began in 2013.

These schools focussed more on daily living skills, simple communication skills and social (relationship & behavioural) skills first;scholastics skills followed to the extent to which the child could manage them. It takes almost 8 years for a child to go through this process and by then, he or she is already a teenager. Sooner or later, the grown up child has to return to his or her village and live with minimum support from his/her parents.

“I never thought that the life of my daughter having intellectual disability, would take such a turn. She's traveling to America thanks to RDT's facilities”
B.Veera Reddy
Parent of an Special Olympics team athlete

So suitable skills such as reading training, personal finances training, local language training, basic math, hand-craftsmanship, cooking, gardening, and carpentry are taught, aside from sports and physical activity training implemented by specially trained Physical Education teachers.

In January 2010, ‘Special Olympics Bharat’ organised its national athletics meet at Ananthapuram. Some children from RDT’s special schools participated casually, representing Andhra Pradesh, without much training and managed to win a few medals. It was then, that RDT decided to actively involve itself and support a specially tailored sports education for Children with Disabilities and started a regular coaching centre at Bathalapalli.

Qualified expert coaches visited the centre from Spain and India. Aside from sports and athletics coaching, regular heath check-ups were conducted to ensure that the children’s physical condition kept pace with their training. Adequate rest and good nutrition were provided to ensure that students kept their strength up. A dedicated team of 4-6 coaches and 2-3 teachers worked exclusively for Special Olympics sports coaching.

RDT’s ASV runs the Special Olympics programme across the district of Ananthapuram through 18 Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) centres. Programmes are implemented via the A.S.A and grassroots centres. Currently, 5 Developmental Centers are operated by ASA in the district of Anantapur. These include the Hockey centres in Dharmavaram and Anantapur town (established in 2010), the multi-sport centres in Bathalapalli & Atmakur (established in 2011) and the residential centre for Special Olympics in Bathalapalli. There are a total of 599 children and youth (141 girls and 458 boys) participating in regular and weekly programs in the sporting disciplines of Cricket, Football, Hockey, Kho-Kho, Kabaddi and Special Olympics.

The entire program is supported by ASA, where all athletes are provided the following support:

  • Well-maintained infrastructure, including full-sized grounds with changing rooms as well as indoor facilities. (Football, Kabaddi and Kho-Kho infrastructure at Atmakur and Bathalapalli centers was developed by RDT in partnership with FC Barcelona Foundation)
  • Full-time coach for respective sport appointed by ASA for each centre.
  • Coaches trained and supported by ASA.
  • Training gear and equipment provided to all athletes.
  • Nutrition program, providing all athletes with morning and evening snacks.
  • Educational support, including daily computer classes for all.

Infrastructure at the ASV includes an indoor hall, a well-furnished gymnasium, table-tennis tables, a badminton court, outdoor basketball and volleyball courts with two separate changing rooms, an office space and storage facility. A full nutrition programme, which includes all three daily meals and snacks, suitable dormitory accommodation and education support with access to special schools including basic life skills, technical and vocational training is provided to the students. The programme also provides bicycles and roller skates to each athlete for training and commuting purposes.

Aside from regular activities, periodic visits are held by the RDT Special Olympic (SO) coaches to assess and guide the children and their PE teachers on their development. Talented youngsters are absorbed into the SO programme. All the SO programme athletes participate in State and National level competitions and ASV was the host for Andhra Pradesh’s first Special Olympics Bharat National Athletics Championship in 2010.

STAFF SPEAK
 

“The proportion of athletes we select from the RDT Special Olympics programme, to represent India in our various competitive international events is a true measure of the quality of the training provided by RDT’s coaches. These children display a level of commitment and enthusiasm that comes not just from their training, but also from the holistic development of their personalities. They are the pride of our National Special Olympics Team”

Enric Romaguera,
Coordinator – RDT Special Olympics Programme

SUCCESS STORY
 

Intellectual Disability: A Challenge, Not A Hindrance

The Special Olympics program in Anantapur (Andhra Pradesh) has been run by the Rural Development Trust (RDT) since 2006. An initiative that started with 2 children has now grown into a full-fledged program with 79 participants. Situated in Bathalapalli, the Centre hosts a fully residential program where all children are provided with the necessary support for their development. The program offers sports training by qualified coaches, education, healthcare and vocational training, as well as a nutrition program.

The aim of the program is to empower differently-abled youth through sport, to allow them to enjoy their childhood, learn lifelong skills and lead better lives.

Kullayamma, one of the athletes from this program, has made incredible progress since she joined 12 years ago. It may sound like a cliché, but she is a completely different person today. According to her coach, Shankar, “Kullayamma was completely dependent on other people to do even the most basic of things. She found it hard to go to the washroom without help. However, today she is a strong willed, confident and independent individual. She is a leader amongst her peers and teammates.”

Born with intellectual disabilities (ID) in a village called Kottalapalli, Kullayamma had a difficult time as a child. In 2004, she joined the RDT rehabilitation centre for children with ID in Bukkaraya Samudram. Two years later, when she shifted to the Special Olympics Program in Bathalapalli, her life headed in an unexpected direction.

Initially, she learnt by watching. That is the process the Special Olympics Program follows. New recruits learn by watching their elder, more experienced teammates play and participate in sessions. The moment they feel they are ready to play and themselves initiate an interest and desire to participate, the coaches slowly integrate them into the sessions. The sessions are based around repetition. Methods are taught in the morning and implemented in games in the evening. These particular methods are constantly and patiently repeated on a regular basis.

Though Badminton is her primary sport, it isn’t Kullayamma’s only talent. Her daily routine sees her involved in a number of activities both sports and life skills related. In terms of sports, she also plays a lot of Handball and Table Tennis. During the afternoon, she is always learning and practicing other skills such as stitching, working with Jute or studying.

Her incredible determination has seen her not just succeed here in Anantapur, but on an international level too. She has travelled to America and Australia to compete for the highest of honors. At the Asia Pacific games in Australia in 2013, Kullayamma won the gold medal at the singles Badminton event, a silver in the doubles and also managed to pick up the Bronze medal in Mixed doubles.

A successful tournament like that would be a dream come true for most athletes, the win of a life time. However, it was only the start for Kullayamma. Incredibly, two years later in 2015, she competed at the Special Olympic World Games in Los Angeles and this time picked up Gold in both the Doubles and Mixed Doubles tournaments. In the singles event, for once, she settled for Silver.

Kullayamma’s partner in crime, and someone she believes to be her role model, is Balakrishnan. Another m

ember of the Special Olympics program, Balakrishnan is arguably one of the most talented Special Olympics athletes not just in India, but the world.

Kullayamma’s parents are daily wage laborers and are very proud of their daughter’s achievements. They are extremely grateful towards the path she has taken, and recognize the influence sports and the Special Olympics program has had on their daughter’s life.

Now 22 years old and already a senior figure within the Special Olympics Program, Kullayamma dreams of becoming an Assistant Coach at the Centre in the future. According to her coach Shankar, “ She already operates like an assistant coach. She is very different on the court. She is always telling the other athletes what to do and is constantly working to improve them.” Kullayamma also has plans to open a Tailor shop, as she enjoys stitching and is extremely passionate about it.

Even after all the medals she has won, if there are ever any doubts about Kullayamma’s inspiring progress since joining the program 12 years ago, her response to being interviewed should alleviate these, “You won’t learn a lot about me through an interview, watch me play Badminton and you’ll learn everything there is to know.”

Along with her fellow athletes, Kullayamma is now part of what is one of India’s largest and most successful Special Olympics Programs.

“There have been a lot of factors that have contributed to the success of this program. This includes a strong interest from all involved to improve the lives of these children, as well as providing them with nutritious food and training to make sure they are healthy and have the fitness levels to compete at a high level. The RDT centre in Bathalapalli is now the Special Olympics headquarters for Special Olympics Andhra Pradesh and our aim is to train more children with different abilities in various sports,” said the CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation) Director at RDT, R.Dasarath, on the success and the future of the program.

PARADIGM SHIFT
 

Expert guidance and quality training are the foundations of any successful athlete. RDT’s sports initiatives have given the children of Ananthapuram, an opportunity of getting trained by the best national and international sports coaches; something, which even their urban counterparts may not have.

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