Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spastics Society of Bangalore

Not a very politically correct name in the Western world!! The Spastics society in England changed its name to Scope when the word "spastic" shifted from referring to a medical condition to being an extemely derogatory term. There was some big hoohah when Tiger Woods had to apologize for referring to his lack of putting prowess on British turf,  as being 'a spaz on the green.' Spastic is still neutral in India meaning someone with cerebral palsy. In the US, it's more a casual term for general clumsiness not an insult. It just shows how Indian English, America English and The Queen's English are very different as to nuances, something we tend to underestimate in inter continent communication, or at least I did on moving from UK to US.

Anyway, back on point.....The Spastics Society of Bangalore is one of the charities the OWC supports and I decided to go on a visit. Organizing India Night and other fundraisers is all very well and good but it's important not to loose sight of where the money goes and the good it does.

Not only does the spastics society help those with cerebral palsy but also autism, epilepsy and other debilitating illness. There is also a department of educational phycologists who help/diagnose those with other more minor struggles within the school system - dyslexia for example.

It could by definition be a depressing place, sort of downhearted and down trodden but not at all. Its by no means opulent but is bright and breezy.

What was really cool was to see exactly what the OWC had funded over the years and there was a lot:

 The green floor on the physiotherapy room was one such project.

The OWC had also directed and help produce a video show-casing the works of the Spastics Society. This specifically showed the importance of education about, and diagnosis of, mental illness. There was one mother featured, who has an autistic son, who admitted she used to beat him until he was diagnosed by the spastics society and she began to understand him and the issues he faced. She touchingly said "I thank the Spastic Society for making my child a person" 

It is all about enabling and empowering. Some of the older kids and adults are put to work helping to make sale-able items - bags and cards for example. There is a bakery where some of the adult patients work to make delicious cookies and savories (we did have a sample or two!)

Again, in order to enable, tools very basic tools are made. Kids with cerebal palsy have limited rotation in their arms as the muscles are dystrophied. Yep - we all know that - but have you ever thought how difficult  it is to clean your teeth if you can't turn your arm properly. So the solution is to make a two part right angled handle - (see pink and red contraptions below) a skipping rope or bike grip handle at one end - (to make it easier to hold) and the toothbrush or spoon can by put in the red sort of extension and kids with less than 100% mobility can brush teeth, eat etc.etc by themselves.  No fancy expensive aids here but with limited resources and a bit of imagination these kids are being helped to reach their true potential. The parents are always involved - some now not only parenting their own disabled child in the best way possible but also to help teaching other disabled kids and their parents.  

The people who run this amazing organization include one of the directors, Mrs Krishnaswamy who at 80 still has a twinkle in her eye, her finger on the pulse and a mind currently coming up with a joint proposal with an international engineering company and a local engineering college to further utilize the latest OWC funded project, a tool room with basic lathes etc. to further empower and enable these kids born with such challenges and disabilites. What a women - to see her talk about the society you see not only what she has done for others but also the sheer joy that, that has brought to her - her light so shines!

A humbling and inspiring morning. I shall draw on this when cajoling local business to donate and the wonderful OWC band of woman to volunteer at our next venture the annual OWC Christmas Bazaar!!


  1. Another excellent article, Helen. Thanks for the reminder about the amazing work the OWC does, along with the people of India who run the charities!

  2. Impressive charity, and interesting blogpost.