“We cannot do great things on this Earth. We can only do small things with great love.” This is what motivated Rachana Prasad, who graduated from the Spastics Society of Karnataka on Inclusive Education. She believed that drama therapy for special children can provide skills that no other education does.
Being a mother of a child with special abilities, Ms Prasad dreamt of providing an inclusive set-up for students to collaboratively learn, perform, act and, most importantly, express without the fear of failure or rebuke. That was when a personal project, named Chiranthana, was started in a small garage in 2008 with 8 students. The programme now covers five schools in 3 locations across Bengaluru and trains over 1,000 students. Students with Downs, autism and intellectual disabilities have benefited from the theatre intervention programs, she says with pride.
Speaking to Deccan Chronicle, she said, “My daughter was born after six years of my marriage. My cute little bundle of joy with pink lips and curly hair looked like a fairy princess, straight out of wonderland. Our joy knew no bounds. With every delight comes the dismay, I guess! Very soon, she was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder affecting her overall developmental milestones. My child was only eight months old then.”
Determined to help children with special abilities, Ms Prasad launched Chiranthana to work in the fields of education, art and culture. The not-for-profit organisation offers a bouquet of interesting and thought-provoking courses for children, parents, teachers and college students to improve the emotional health of society. Chiranthana has since then trained over 20,000 children and youth in personality development and theatrical skills. Curriculums based on Theatre methods are very popular in Rachana’s workshops, and she along with her team has effectively put together more than 25 productions for children to demonstrate their talents and express their strengths.
“The model which we offer is an integrated programme that blends with the school and college curricula, like workshops, annual day events, theatrical events, stage performances and train the trainer short films. So Chiranthana has been doing a great job in empowering children by sensitising them towards social causes. Using theatre as one of the tools is an added advantage, because it works on the holistic development of a child,” said Mr Suresh Heblikar, filmmaker, writer and environmentalist.
Chiranthana also offers life skills modules through storytelling and detailed lesson plans, which include theatre, audiovisuals seminars, debates, public speaking, field trips, community-driven programmes and questionnaires.
“It’s all because my daughter gave me a career, showed me how to smile despite all odds, gave me a life worth living and made me fearless about having another baby. There were times I felt I could have done better with my girl and have come under extreme guilt pangs whenever I prioritised myself over my children. The journey which started with eight kids went up to 800 and very soon they gathered everyone’s attention. Today, Chiranthana is a registered NGO. Not many NGOs work for special kids using art as an intervention, but Chiranthana is certainly one-of-a-kind and it’s with
the help of our board members and other coordinators,” Ms Prasad said.
Chiranthana is all set to create a setup which welcomes young adults with special abilities and ensures that they live a happy and dignified life. The focus of the new initiative is to address the concerns of parents of special children as they are worried about the future of their wards after school....