Timberline Foundation makes regular grants to support the activities of the Prabhat Education Foundation of Ahmedabad and maintains a designated fund from which those grants are made. Contributions to this Prabhat Fund are welcomed, and are restricted to that use.
The explanation of Prabhat's programs that follows comes from our former Timberline colleague Ashoke Chatterjee.
Prabhat is part of a package of contacts and memories that are rooted in the Himalayas --- at Mussoorie (India) where Woodstock School has been an anchor in our lives. Jeet Singh (founder of Timberline Foundation), Glenn Conrad (Timberline director) and I are Woodstock alumni and Eleanor has served as its Principal and President. Together, we have all been part of Timberline and of its efforts to provide catalytic support to those trying to make a practical difference.
Prabhat is a cause that, like several others, came to Timberline attention through the Woodstock network. I graduated in the Class of 1951. My son Keshav started working with children who have special needs back in 2002 ---- starting with Timberline honorariums that Jeet so generously shared with those of us on his team.
Keshav’s interest in education with a difference started with his childhood exposure to my memories of Woodstock, and of an education that took into account what was ‘special’ about each one of us. Occasional visits to Woodstock charged his ambition to be a teacher. He soon wanted to devote his career to teaching, and to reaching out to children with special needs. Then Kiran Sethi, a former student of mine at the National Institute of Design and founder with her husband Geet of the wonderful Riverside School (the Sethis are also Woodstock parents!) here in Ahmedabad and Eleanor on one her visits encouraged Keshav to ‘Just Do It’. And to ‘Do It Now’ with youth and courage on his side while confronting all the obvious challenges of working in one of the most difficult sectors in India, surrounded as it is by barriers of discrimination and neglect. So that’s a bit of the chemistry that has brought us together around this letter --- evidence perhaps that ultimately everything connects, as this might with you!
Prabhat began through Keshav’s efforts as a grade school teacher to locate children with learning difficulties in a mainstream experimental school here in Ahmedabad. That school started with the intention of being really different. The experiment with special needs failed. The stigma attached to issues of disability in our land proved too much for the administrators. So Keshav struck out on his own, beginning with children with learning difficulties. A summer workshop in 2002 followed by a survey in some of Ahmedabad’s most deprived communities revealed the huge numbers of ‘disabled’ children and affected families, and the extent of neglect of those who are ‘differently able’ in our society. So Prabhat began --- first with one child, and now reaching out directly to about 1,000.
In the years since 2002, much has changed. National legislation exists now that is more aggressively protective and supportive of the differently able. Children who were once rejected by schools now have a legal right for admission. Schemes exist for access to services.
While the rights of these citizens have been established, the challenge now is to help them actually access services and facilities to which they are entitled. That can be very tough. Prabhat has been part of this movement, and today devotes much of its limited resources to helping to ensure both awareness as well as access to rights. One of the most important developments has been Prabhat support to schools and to teachers who are now required to accept special children but lack the understanding and training that is needed to welcome and nurture them.
India and our city still have a very long way to go. Prabhat has had to change its work location seven times in this past decade due to issues of stigma and rejection by landlords and neighbours of those they regard as ‘infectious’ and ‘godforsaken’. Yet support is also growing. Just last month, 1,800 citizens gathered in a slum neighbourhood on one of Ahmedabad’s hottest, dustiest summer evenings at a celebration to mark the end of this year’s Prabhat Summer Workshops. They cheered Prabhat children, who danced and sang along with their siblings, neighbourhood friends and families. Kids from Riverside School provided event management, and the mood swung from Bollywood gyrations to Hum Hongeh Kamiyab (We Shall Overcome). It was an uplifting demonstration of inclusion and equity, as well as of hope in the midst of so much deprivation. That is what Prabhat is all about.
Donate to the Prabhat Fund