The Story of Maharishi Dadhichi

Pathway believes in giving comprehensive rehabilitation and education to all the special children it serves, hence another dimension of holistic approach using theatre as a medium has been utilized. Pathway joins hands with a wonderful organisation known as RASA to allow our children to grow in this sphere. Two hundred children from various special schools were drawn together to perform a mega event, based on stories drawn from Hindu mythology, at Narada Gana Sabha under the banner of JAYA.

Children of all ages had practised their part for nearly three months. As the event day dawned there was hectic activity. As usual, the older kids took care of the younger ones and finally after all the checks and rechecks of their baggage and snacks they boarded the bus to the city’s main theatre hall. Food, which is always their highlight of a usual day, was given the least importance. They constantly chattered and smiled as our cast of 20 children made their way to the make-up room to finally don the beautiful costumes which would transform them into the various characters. It was amazing to watch their confidence in whatever they do. The fear of stage was missing.

As their part of the programme, the children of pathway depicted the goodness of a “rishi” known as Dadhichi.

The brilliant portrayal of Lord Indra was enacted by Prabhu.  Vrinda, also known as the demon or Saurav, was played by Prasanna. The forest creatures were played by Mariya and Devi as peacocks, Srinidhi, Divya, Priya and Anitha as deters, and Prathap and Harish as parrots. The befitting role of Lord Brahma was enacted by Mohammed and Godess Saraswathi’s role was portrayed by Vani. The peasants were staged by Tamizmani, Karthik, Manoj, Sudeep and Anand. The other court kings of Lord Indra were played by Saravanan, Bharath, Gopi, Vaidhyanathan and Joseph. Madhavan, Murugappan, Venkat and Deva shared the role of the asura Vritra. The main central character Dadhichi  was astoundingly enacted by Subramani.

The precision in their movements and complete synchronised act of all the cast members evoked thunderous applause. After the event was over they proudly posed for photographs.

Rooftop Gardens

Like an oasis in a desert, this small patch of greenery in the concrete jungle of Chennai is a feast to the eyes. This bright spot is full of lush green plants, filled with flowers, fruits and foliage. Almost twenty years ago two young men, Bill Benac Jr and Tim Fews, visited Pathway to volunteer. Both were students of Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. Bill and Tim had a definite job carved out for them, to set up a roof garden as envisioned by Prasads. Loads of soil and manure were lifted by them manually along with children of Pathway. Considerable thought was invested in designing the floor with proper water treatment and drainage.

Today this small experimental patch has given great scope for research to grow and nurture plants that normally do not grow in this part of India, due to sweltering heat and humidity. Grapes and pineapple, for instance,require cool climatic conditions to thrive, but they are growing freely at the Pathway roof garden where conditions are kept under control.

This garden boasts several types of plants such as ‘Paan’ or betel leaves, exquisite edible and tasty greens, curry leaves, large pumpkins, egg plant, okra, double beans, cluster beans, chillies, tomatos, fenugreek, spring onions, etc.that reach the kitchen regularly. Flowering plants such as begonia, jasmine, hibiscus, and roses of different hues bloom, and orchids grow utilizing charcoal. To top it all the roof garden is also growing hybrid lemon trees. The roof garden attracts plenty of interested visitors. Children enjoy tending these plants under the watchful eyes of Chandra Prasad and they are indeed proud of their accomplishments.It has also served as training and stepping stone for children and adolescents to graduate into horticulture.

Christmas at Pathway

Pathway celebrated Christmas with heart-filled prayer and great fervour. It was a double bonanza — with two celebrations, one at the Farm and the other at Chennai. As one guest quipped, “It is getting bigger and better each year!” The Pamela Martinez School and the Sabin Centre joined in a grand pageant. The buildings, trees and paths were decked out with twinkling lights, adding to the festivity. There was excitement and joy on the faces of hundreds of children dressed in colourful attire specially gifted to them to celebrate the Christmas season.

The students from Pamela Martinez School presented a beautiful programme that included hymns, choir singing, skits and dramas based on the scriptures. One bright and beautiful feature was the traditional Indian Bharthanatyam dances by children adorned in colorful dresses, singing and dancing. (The backdrop scene on the stage was painted by two young lads, David and G.Pandian.  The boys were congratulated and received special prizes, as their great talent was recognized and encouraged.)

Plays included, “Have You Seen Christmas?” “A Different Kind of Baby,” “Christmas Bell,” and “Deck the Hall.”  The event attracted hundreds of children, parents and invitees. The evening ended with the bestowing gifts to all the children and staff and with a sumptuous dinner, generously provided by our good Judge Sheffield.  Loving messages were received from friends and supporters, including Pamela and Alex Martinez from the U.S., a video from Jean Luc, Carole and BJ Butel from Beirut.  Prasad welcomed the gathering and briefly described the birth and atonement of our Saviour. Chandra Prasad and Sudha Subramaniam conveyed their loving message.

By the miracle of modern technology special messages and blessings were received via Skype from Leeds, England, with our beloved Judge William Sheffield (“Grandpa” to all the children)  giving a wonderful message. The children sang “O Come All Ye Faithful” and wished Judge a Merry Christmas. Our wonderful supporter Gary Sabin from San Diego spoke eloquently about his daughter Jennifer and the deadly disease, cystic fibrosis, that had threatened her life. He explained that she was the  recipient of a double-lung transplant from living donors, from two true friends,  and that her story is a chronicle of courage, faith, and love. Gary Sabin said that we all need each other and we need to give ourselves in love and service. He conveyed his great love and greetings for Christmas.  Everyone assembled sang “Silent Night” and conveyed their love and gratitude.  Dr. David Bryce from Marriott School, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, spoke about his youngest son Joseph, a boy with special needs, saying he was really grateful for the gift of this loving, affectionate and sensitive child.  He recalled his daughter Anna’s visit to Pathway some time ago and conveyed continued support and love.  Everyone sang hymns with devotion and conveyed their love to Anna.

Vocational Excellence Awards

It was a day of celebration, filled with expectation and excitement, as young men and women and children with disabilities gathered from different parts of Chennai and the Kanchipuram District. All assembled in the “Southern Crown,” a splendidly-decorated, spacious hall at the GRT Grand, a popular five-star hotel, which was the event’s hospitality partner. Many of the participants, as well as their parents, had never seen such grandeur, and were proud to assemble to honor more than two hundred men and women with disabilities from throughout the region. This venue was selected to show and to honor talents, hard work, and abilities, and was organized by Pathway to give awards to those who demonstrated great promise despite challenges.

Pathway’s team, consisting of Sudha Subramaniam, Chandra Prasad and Dhuli Patnaik, made extensive visits to various organizations and institutions to evaluate the performance of youth in various vocational areas. After careful and meticulous study, selections were made for awards in three areas: first, individual (those showing mastery for particular vocation independently), second, group (Group who have excelled in a vocation in a factory or industrial assembly line) , and third, persons who had achieved open employment and successful mainstreaming. The group awards were called the Pathway Sabin Vocational Excellence Award given in honor of Sabin Children’s Foundation, San Diego and its Chairman Gary Sabin. The individual awards were named after benefactor Pamela Martinez of Capistrano Beach, California. Sixty-five such awards were presented by Mrs. B. Valarmathi, Honorable Minister for Social Welfare and NMP Govt. of Tamil Nadu, with P Sivasankar, Principal Secretary to Government Department of Differently Abled, Dr. K Manivasan, State Commissioner for the Differently Abled, and R Santhanam, formerly a Member of the Central Administrative Tribunal.

Dr. Prasad described the mission and services provided by Pathway and read messages from both Gary Sabin and Pamela Martinez. The event was well conceived and organized by president Sudha Subramaniam. Four women were recognized for rendering great services for the disabled. Chandra Prasad, Trustee, proposed a vote of thanks. The event was attended by many distinguished guests and was well covered by the press and electronic media. Attendees were treated to mouth-watering delicacies following the ceremony.

Message from Gary Sabin, Sabin Children’s Foundation, San Diego:

Dear Pathway Friends and distinguished guests – I am delighted to send you sincere Merry Christmas wishes and warm season’s greetings all the way from San Diego, California. I very much wish I could be there in person with you tonight to present the Sabin Vocational Excellence awards. I hope to pay you a visit soon. In the meantime, please know that’s I am so proud of the special young people who will be honored tonight for their excellence and hard work. You deserve this award. Please accept my heartfelt congratulations for you spectacular achievements. I have been following your wonderful progress through our dear friend, Dr. Prasad, and through others who have recently visited your facilities in Chennai. You are terrific!

Congratulations!

2014 Children’s Day

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It was time for fun and frolic, a day of celebration, as the staff and children of Pamela Martinez School prepared for Children’s Day, a day to remember Jawaharlal Nehru, free India’s first prime minister, with love and fondness. The excitement grew as the enthusiastic children all assembled to celebrate the event. Ably led by principal Annadurai and a team of dedicated teachers, great treats were prepared for the children. The faces of the tiny tots from kindergarden beamed as they saw their favorite snacks dangling before their eyes. Breaking the jetty and seven pins caused great excitement. Cheers broke out when boys and girls were involved in specially crafted ‘incoherent rhetoric’. There were balloons and decorations which contributed to the festive atmosphere. Children took part in various games, mime shows, puzzles, painting, and singing. Ganesan and Zakir presented a cute play. At the end of the day the children appeared to be exhausted from their activities while thoroughly enjoying their cakes and traditional Indian sweets. Such childhood delight made the adults realize that children are indeed precious gems and are divine gifts from above!

Village Outreach

For many years now Pathway has been running an outreach program in nearby villages to help the poor and disabled children living there. Originally, the Indian government began a therapy program for these destitute children, but after 5 years they decided to end it. Pathway skillfully stepped in and saved the program which is running very well today. Several of these children have very limited use of their legs or arms and would be completely quadriplegic without the free therapy Pathway provides. Pathway is well known in these villages because they bring help to the villages whereas it would be impossible for the villagers to reach a bigger city for aid. (Learn more about Community Based Rehabilitation)

Family Support Entreprenurship Program

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.

Community Based Rehabilitation

Community Based Rehabilitation
Community Based Rehabilitation

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.

Words of Wisdom

After several months of grueling preparation, the current tenth graders were finally all set to face their crucial public examinations conducted by the government in April. This marked the end of their 11-12 year stay at Pathway. Each of them entered as ‘tiny – tots’ in kindergarten at the Pamela Martinez Matriculation School. Now all have grown into young men and women ready to face the world. During their life at Pathway, these children were showered with love, good education and comprehensive care, amidst great freedom to learn. They were taught values that would shape their character.

With the end of their stay at Pathway it was felt that all of them should carry with them pleasant memories and teachings, and should receive final words from some of the people who helped in chiseling their character and contributing to their lives in significant ways. These young students had the great blessing of listening to two great gentlemen, Judge William Sheffield and Gary B. Sabin, who appeared via Skype, all the way from California, nearly 9000 miles away. Judge Sheffield (or ‘Grandpa’ to hundreds of Pathway children) conveyed his great love to them. He asked all to follow the Saviour. He counseled the children to always remember Pathway and be grateful for what they had received. Gary Sabin lucidly explained values to be imbibed and exhorted the children to love one another. He narrated stories to vividly illustrate great virtues. He urged the children to read the scriptures every day and be close to our Heavenly Father. Several children, including Monisha, Satya, and Akash, thanked Judge Sheffield and Gary Sabin for their love and described their lives at Pathway. The event was marked with joy and singing of hymns.

Reading Horizons at Pathway

Reading Horizons at Pathway
Reading Horizons at Pathway

It was autumn, the ideal season to visit Utah, when the leaves of the trees in the mountain reach their brilliant best. This was the time that the Prasads, a year and half ago, were introduced to “Reading Horizons.” It was a momentous occasion that prepared the foundation for a lasting relationship between Pathway and Reading Horizons (RH). Pathway directors had the opportunity to meet Tyson Smith, President, and Heidi Hyte, Curriculum & ESL Director of RH. It was a great experience in the fall of 2012 for Prasads and Dosdalls, who were given a bird’s eye view of this unique methodology of systematically teaching English reading. Prasads were impressed by the way Heidi Hyte expounded the salient aspects of pronunciation and spelling of words in the English language. They realized the impact that this can have on children at Pathway, knowing very well the importance of speaking and reading English. In response to their invitation, Tyson Smith and Heidi Hyte readily agreed to help children of Pamela Martinez Matriculation School, Agili, by sharing their well-developed software and instructional material. They also accepted the invitation to visit Pathway. The visit recently became a reality as Sudha Subramaniam and Heidi Hyte worked out the details.

The RH team, comprised of Tyson Smith and Angie Smith (on left), Heidi Hyte and Alisha Thomas (on right), was recently received with love and a traditional Indian welcome by Dhuli Patniak, Sudha Subramaniam, Chandra and Dr. Prasad (center, left to right). They spent considerable time meeting children and staff at the Pamela Martinez Matriculation School and also witnessed the work done by the Sabin Centre for the Disabled, the vocational and production centres, the medical unit, dormitories for children, etc.

Reading Horizons' Heidi Hyte
Reading Horizons’ Heidi Hyte

Heidi Hyte conducted a short training programme for teachers and senior students of the school. This was followed by a grand display of ethnic Indian dances and the singing of hymns by the children.

Seminar for Reading Horizons
Seminar for Reading Horizons

One of the highlights of the visit was a workshop presented and organized by Pathway at Chennai. This well-attended workshop had the participation of several English teachers and scholars from various schools and institutions. In his welcome address, founder-director of Pathway, Dr. Prasad, introduced the chief guest, Professor M S Swaminathan, Emeritus Chairman, MSSRF, describing him as an icon in the field of plant genetics and the father of the green revolution in India, explaining that Professor Swaminathan was the recipient of the World Food Prize and had been highly decorated by the grateful government of India and named by “Time” magazine as one the twenty most influential Asians of the 20th century.

Prasad explained briefly about Reading Horizons and introduced Tyson Smith, President, who said that he had worked with thousands of educators across of the world to bring about improvements in literacy in children. He described Heidi Hyte, curriculum & ESL director, as a highly qualified, “live-wire” teacher and said that she had conducted training programmes in many parts of the world. He also introduced Alisha Thomas, general manager, and Angie Smith, his wife.

Reading Horizons at Pathway
Reading Horizons at Pathway

All the guests were honoured with traditional shawls, garlands and mementos made by the children of Pathway and Sabin Centre, by Chandra Prasad, Sudha Subramaniam and Dhuli Patnaik.

Heidi Hyte conducted a highly-absorbing workshop where she described the methods of teaching reading, consisting of explicit, systematic, sequential instruction in decoding, spelling, and pronunciation strategies. Great insights were shown in the multi-sensory approach of teaching English to non-native speakers. Heidi Hyte said of her visit to Pathway, “The Reading Horizons team thoroughly enjoyed their visit to the Pathway campuses. The children are very special. There is an unparalleled feeling of mutual respect between the students and the staff. The children are happy. The teachers are happy. The students and staff alike are productive, contributing individuals. I am inspired by Pathway and all that it offers students to help them experience an excellent quality of life—a quality of life in which they feel loved, respected, cared for, and safe…a quality of life which provides them with opportunities to learn how to contribute using their knowledge and talents. I am confident that those who have the privilege of interacting with the students and staff at Pathway, as well as those who contribute to Pathway’s efforts in other valuable ways, find their experience to be mutually beneficial.”

The RH team visited Pathway, Chennai and witnessed the work done at this facility for the disabled children and adults. Tyson Smith and Heidi Hyte promised to maintain a lasting relationship with Pathway.