Gowri is an enthusiastic young lady who joined Pathway in 2011 and is now in the tenth grade. Despite being older and more advanced when she was admitted, Gowri has fit in well and is consistently eager to participate, learn, and take advantage of the opportunities and education available at Pathway, often volunteering and cheerfully accepting assignments and responsibilities.
It is often said that disabilities and poverty go hand in hand. This relationship impacts the lives of people all over the country, especially in rural areas where there are few and scant opportunities to earn a living. Realizing this, the organization has initiated Pathway Family Support Entrepreneur Program to assist poor adults with disabilities such as blindness, deafness, poliomyelitis, and dwarfism, as well as helping parents who have children with mental disabilities. Assistance comes by advancing small loans ( $60-70) to help establish tiny enterprises, such as rearing goats, peacocks, ducks, or chickens, or small marketing efforts, such as selling condiments in villages, servicing of cell phones, etc. During his recent visit Eric Ottesen participated in an event in a remote village where he met a number of disabled individuals who were delighted to receive checks from him to help them establish trades which can support them financially.
Over 68% of India’s population of 1.2 billion is located in 600,000 villages scattered throughout the country. On average, the needs of the rural population differ from those of the urban for various reasons –contrasting socio-economic conditions, available occupations, access to healthcare, life ambitions, emphasis on schooling etc. Though mental and physicial disabilies occur in both environments, individuals and families who live in rural India receive little in the way of relief or support.
Perceiving this deficit as an opportunity, for the past five years Pathway has been implementing a “Community-based Rehabilitation” (CBR) program for individuals and families who live in rural Tamil Nadu. This program seeks to empower persons with disabilities without ‘removing’ them from their environment and helps provide tools to rural communities to assist such families and individuals.
Pathway develops customized programs by first by meeting with constituent partners to understand the community, the local culture, type of population, abilities, disabilities, types of occupation of the majority of the community, etc. After this is studied, metrics for success are created and major stakeholders, such as parents, close relatives, or disabled individuals themselves, are identified.
Pathway is then able to provide professional teams comprised of medical and rehabilitation experts who visit communities several times a year. These teams assist communities in identifying persons with disabilities and then investing time to explain to parents and relatives the various aspect of their child’s disability. Family members are trained to perform simple exercises. Training material is disseminated so that those disabled persons can receive basic help from their caretakers as the need arises.
The teams also stress prevention of disabilities, such as the need for good food for the mother and child, principles of cleanliness, public health and hygiene, clean water, the value of breast feeding, vaccination in early childhood, etc. In regard to specific problems, communities are assured that they can have access to experts for consultation when needed. These efforts by Pathway not only provide immediate medical and therapeutic relief, but also seek to change prevailing cultural beliefs and habits to positively impact community trajectories.
Recently, Eric Ottesen, Director, Sabin Children’s Foundation visited one of the villages where the organization is implementing CBR. He was received by village leaders and was able to meet a number of disabled children who are being assisted.
The Pathway Excellence award 2014 ceremony was recently convened in an inspiring yet simple event at the Pamela Martinez Matriculation School. Awards were conferred on 17 meritorious children belonging from rural Tamil Nadu. These children were especially identified as those who were not only the poorest of the poor, but those that had overcome tremendous personal challenges to succeed.
This award helps Pathway follows its mandate to serve the most needy and deserving children without any bias to their religion, caste or any other consideration in order to uncover the potential of highly deserving children.
Along with a cash prize, the highlight of this award allocated a mentor to each of the selected awardees. These mentors belong to a panel of highly successful professionals drawn from the local community chosen from various walks of life.
It was overwhelming for all in attendance to watch the parents of the awardees express their glee and delight in participating in a such an event. The village-school principals were equally appreciative with the honors bestowed on their wards.
Pathway Judge William Sheffield Excellence Award – This award was conferred on G. Lokesh – a 15 year boy from a remote farming village. This boy is the son of poor, illiterate parents who work as “coolis” (unskilled agricultural laborers). He and his family live in a thatched hut made of palm, coconut leaves with no electricity providing minimal sheltering from the elements. Lokesh returns from school each day to study and compete homework using light from only wax candles. He also walks 14 miles everyday to attend the school as he can not afford to purchase a bus ticket.
In addition to the challenges he faces getting to and succeeding at school, he joins his father as a daily farming labor every summer to help augment the paltry family. Despite gnawing hardships and deafening poverty, Lokesh manage to secure 1st rank in his school and came 2nd in his district with over 95% scores in all subjects, with 100% in mathematics. Pathway salutes this great achiever by bestows the excellence award.
Pathway Gary Sabin Excellence Award – This award was given to V. Karthikeyan from Kattukarunai village in rural Tamil Nadu. At age 15, Karthikeyan, has been attending a government high school in a remote village. He has shown great dedication, perseverance, and ability in his education and in his life. Hailing from a very poor family, he lives in a shanty hut and carries water for over 3 miles everyday for survival. This boy has excelled despite severe challenges.
To take care of his sick father, Karthikeyan has been laboring along with his mother to earn living from the past four years. In spite of all the time commitments he has made to help his family, he has excelled in his education. Karthikeyan dreams about becoming an engineer and has scored 96% in three subjects and 100% in two subjects. Pathway is delighted to honor this young man with this coveted award.
Pathway Prasad Excellence Award – This award was conferred on 16-year old Vijayalakshmi from Endrathur. She is one of five siblings. Despite many challenges that girls face in rural India, she is able to take care of her chronically ill father, look after the day-to-day needs of her 4 younger siblings, and help her mother cook and clean the home.
Vijayalakshmi has been able to overcome such trials to study and excel in her education by performing exceptionally well in her higher secondary examinations. Her dream to become a certified account (CPA) may be very well realized as she has scored more than 95% in her qualifying examinations. In addition to excelling in her studies, she has also done very well in leadership and other extra-curricular activities contributing to the well-rounded person she has now become. Pathway salutes this great achiever and confer this award.
As a side note, when Vijayalakshmi’s brief biography was read at the event, the ovation inviting her up on the stage was especially strong and heartfelt.
Awards were presented to meritorious children by the honored guest Eric Ottesen, Sr. Vice- President, Excel Realty Holdings and Director, Sabin Children’s Foundation in San Diego, USA.
In his brief address Mr Ottesen congratulated the children for their great performance and complimented Pathway for this initiative. He also spoke words honoring senior teachers for their wonderful service.
A D S N Prasad described briefly the work done by the organization for the disabled from the past 37 years and outlined the contribution made by Pamela Martinez school and orphanage from the past 14 years. He said that nearly 30,000 lives have been touched by Pathway over the years. He conveyed his gratitude to Pamela and Alex Martinez for their unstinted support.
Prasad conveyed his gratitude to Judge William Sheffield for his long association and for his great contribution, and to Gary Sabin, Chairman, Excel Realty Holdings and Chairman, Sabin Children’s Foundation in San Diego, USA, for their generous support.
There was joy and merriment as children presented colourful dances and a highly absorbing mime show. Sudha Subramaniam presented each awardee with inspiring stories and Chandra Prasad, as master of ceremonies, presented senior teachers who were honoured during the occasion. Dhuli Patnaik also participated.