The estimated number of children with disabilities ranges from 40 to 90 million. According to Census data on the state of Tamil Nadu (South-East India), more than one million people live with some form of disability. This is less than 2% of the population, with a higher rate in rural areas.

The problem and the context

However, it is very likely that this figure dramatically underestimates reality, as many families take years before embarking on and completing the process to obtain a disability certificate. Malnutrition, problems during pregnancy and childbirth, inadequate medical care and risky environmental conditions favour the onset of neurological disorders from birth. Family members receive insufficient support and no training to cope with their children’s problems.

Having a child with a disability is often synonymous with big burden, in a context in which the resources to guarantee him/her adequate care are not sufficient and opportunities for integration are rare. In fact, integration into the community presents various problems and children and young people with disabilities are often marginalized or victims of violence and exploitation.

The response of Cittadinanza

We support the Best New Life Shelter (BNLS) day care centre which over the years has welcomed and offered rehabilitation and assistance to around 220 children and young adults. The centre is located in the rural area of Arcot, in the Ranipet district, in the south-eastern state of Tamil Nadu.

For many children, the Best New Life Shelter has represented in these 18 years the only opportunity for assistance and socialization, an outstretched hand in the midst of indifference. Here they found indiscriminate acceptance, beyond any caste or faith affiliation and opportunities for growth and development of autonomy. Besides the children attending the centre, many hundreds of others received assistance in the paperwork for obtaining the certificate of disability and government subsidy.

The centre was founded in 2003 by Catherine Inbarajan, mother of a boy suffering from severe spastic tetraparesis resulting from meningitis infection. The most common diagnoses are mental retardation, cerebral palsy, autism, Down syndrome, and other multiple disabilities. In 2019, after more than 15 years of supporting the centre’s activities, a new five-year phase of the collaboration between Cittadinanza and BNLS was approved. During these five years, Cittadinanza is committed to assisting BNLS towards independence.

The centre’s activities

is designed to guarantee a complete and nutritious meal every day so that patients don’t to go hungry andgrow heal

is an assistance service in the paperwork for obtaining the certificate of disability and government subsidy, the first steps to obtain a small recognition and support from the state.

are meant to monitor the health situation of each child. Those who have not yet registered at the centre can also accede to the visits.

is designed to offer physiotherapy, occupational therapy and yoga sessions to develop fine motor and manual skills. When the centre, just like the schools in Tamil Nadu, was closed to the public due to the pandemic, such assistance was provided at home, with twice-weekly visits.

designs customized activities and objectives built on the abilities of every boy.

is a service of follow-up of some BNLS children enrolled in school to help them in preparing for state exams.

is meant for young adults to learn simple tasks and facilitate their access to work.

is meant to increase independence in daily activities and the ability to live both in family and in the community.

Since 2003:

221 children and young adults

hosted and assisted by the centre

38 young adults

assisted in the world of work

122 subventions

obtained for the families of the centre’s children

115 children

followed in school inclusion

about 15.000 individuals

with disabilities were supported by BNLS together with other associations in applying for certificates

In 2021:

31 days

dedicated to identifying children, young people and adults with disabilities from surrounding communities

29 families

reached thanks to home services, following the closure of the centre

Nel 2003

221 bambini e giovani adulti

accolti e seguiti presso il centro

38 giovani adulti

assistiti con visite e farmaci

122 sussidi

ottenuti per le famiglie dei
ragazzi del centro

115 bambini

con disabilità supportate da
BNLS insieme alle altre
associazioni per la richiesta di documenti

circa 15.000 persone

formati tramite due corsi sulla disabilità

Nel 2021

31 giornate

di identificazione dei bambini, giovani e adulti con disabilità delle comunità circostanti

29 famiglie

raggiunte grazie ai servizi a
domicilio, in seguito alla
chiusura del centro