As we entered into the main room of the Reality Gives supported Community Outreach Program (CORP) Shalom Centre, a daycare centre for disabled children, we were greeted with smiling, eager faces. Five days a week, from 4:00 to 6:30, a regular crowd of around 15 children spend the afternoon at CORP Shalom Centre. On Saturdays, these children spend the entire day at the centre, benefiting from special activities such as music and art classes. Using donations, Reality Gives already provided eight hearing aids and two calipers for physically handicapped children from Dharavi.
The lives of the few children who already received hearing aids from various funding sources changed drastically with the new devices. Before, they wore a cumbersome voice box over their chest with headphones in their ears. In order to properly utilise these old aids, speakers must lean in and talk directly into the box. The children’s disability was not only disabling but also outwardly visible. Their difficulties extended into their daily routines as well. A task as simple as walking on the road proved difficult because the hearing impaired children had trouble hearing oncoming traffic. In the evenings, they had trouble enjoying a TV show with their families because they could not comprehend the full story.
Since receiving new hearing aids, their challenges have lessened immensely, and the aids have even enabled the children to carry out a normal life. These children can hear their teachers, and several of them affirmed that they are now able to learn more. All commented that new hearing aids have facilitated confidence. Indeed it has because four recipients of the hearing aids have since passed their Higher Secondary Education (HSC), two years beyond the required education. After their schooling, the children aspire to become everything from a cricketer to a teacher to a shop owner to a guitarist.
Knowing this, we were happy to hand out two more hearing aids that were entirely funded by the donations we received from the Reality Tours Travel’s customers after the Dharavi Slum Tour in our Reception Centre. This time Sameer (12) and Shabanna (13) were the lucky ones.
Sameer is a very cheerful young boy who enjoys using the computer and who wants to become a tailor, just like his father. He is very keen on passing the 10th standard and to go to college afterwards but he is also aware that he will need to work at the same time to contribute to his family’s income.
Shabanna is very shy but the teachers say she is very smart and hard-working at school. At the same age she is already three grades ahead of Sameer and also very keen to pass the 10th standard to join the college afterwards although she doesn’t know yet what she wants to do afterwards. She has three brothers of which one is also hearing disabled. She shunne the attention she got on the day of the hearing aid distribution but now she is looking forward to using the new device to learn even more at school.
The experience observing these kids using their new devices for the first time was incredible. Other children with the same devices helped them to install and adjust them and then the moment came when they could suddenly hear their friends and teachers properly for the first time. A big smile arose on their faces and we left with a warm and truly meant “Thank you”.
Chris Way, Founder of Reality Gives, who was at the centre for the distribution centre, said, “I’ve been in Mumbai for over 8 years now but seeing the kids put on the new devices and seeing their reaction, as well as of those of their family, was one of my most humbling experiences since I have been here.”
The kids find the outside world is different than the comfortable, welcoming rooms of the centre. At CORP’s Shalom Centre, the children acknowledge that they are understood. With the help of Reality Gives, however, the new hearing aids have made the outside world a bit less frightening.
If you want to help too donate today on www.realitygives.org. Thank you for your support!
Thanks to our volunteer Aliza for her help contributing to this story during her visit to Mumbai.