Childlife Preserve Shishur Sevay
“Childlife Preserve Shishur Sevay was founded in 2006 as a model of inclusive, noninstitutional care for lost and abandoned girls, some with disabilities, all having been rejected for adoption. Shishur Sevay is showing what CAN be done.”
Dr. Michelle Harrison, Founder and Secretary
- We did what we’d been told couldn’t be done.
- Children expected not to survive are thriving twelve years later.
- Advanced eye tracking technology gives voice to those who cannot speak.
- Girls judged beyond hope are transforming the directions of their lives and becoming leaders.
- We took orphan children those who had no connection with family or community, some with disabilities who were languishing in the government institutes.
- We created a safe innovative and inclusive environment for health, education, culture, and quality of life.
- We invested in the advanced communication technology, like the Tobii Eye Tracker so our silent children could communicate with us and we with them.
- We wanted to show what could be done because systems cannot change unless people know what is possible. Our “Best Practices” presents a model that is scalable and replicable and presents a way forward in the crisis over children desperately in need of care. Simple survival is not enough.
Shishur Sevay Mission
To protect orphans and abandoned children, including those having differing abilities and disabilities, by providing a safe environment where they will be sheltered, nurtured, and educated in ways that build Competence, Confidence, Independence and Leadership.
- In February 2007 twelve girls were transferred from Sukanya Home for Care and Rehabilitation by order of the West Bengal CWC. Their ages varied from 18 months to 11 years. The four youngest had profound disabilities and were not expected to survive.
- We addressed their acute and chronic illnesses with quality medical and dental care, and at times hospitalizations.
- We instituted restorative diets to address malnutrition and growth retardation and continue to provide a highly nutritional diet.
- We developed a practice of Inclusive living meaning abled and differently abled children lived together. They shared living space, recreation, Prarthana, TV and education. This created strong bonds caring, and compassion among all of them.
- Ichche Dana Inclusive School was established in 2013. For the girls with histories of severe trauma, the harshness of the outside schools became debilitating. Ichche Dana provides individualized attention, support, disciplined study, and project-based learning. E-Learning programs such as Khan Academy, flipped classroom, and K-5 Learnings, using iPads and laptops, provide development of computer skills.
- The Tobii Eye Tracker, made in Sweden allows communication via eye movements. First in India, girls with disabilities can speak their thoughts and needs using their eyes on the screen. We are told by the Tobii Company that we were the first customers in India. This is used both in class and for informal communication and is often set up by the older girls so they can speak with their sisters.
- Culture – Particularly for orphan who have often denied participation in the community’s celebration, a strong cultural foundation is important for their identity and sense of belonging.
- Inclusive Dance is an innovative program with classes three times a week and a public performance of a dance drama. Special harness allows the children who cannot stand to move to the music with the dancers.
- Inclusive Art gives an opportunity to the girls to showcase their creativity and thrive. The abled and differently-abled worked together to create unique sarees, dupattas, and scarves made with joy. One girl is a gifted artist and was part of our five days art exhibition AUTHENTICITY at ICCR Tagore Centre.
- Activities like tailoring classes, karate classes at Shivaji Ganguly’s Academy Mind & Body, dance classes at Mamata Shankar’s Dance Academy – Udayan are also attended by the girls. Childlife Preserve Shishur Sevay is on the way to reach out to the community by 2019.
Our children represented disabilities from all the above categories in the diagram.
There is over 2 lakhs children with disabilities 0-9 aging range of our children when they came to Shishur Sevay.
Dr. Michelle Harrison – The Founder
Dr. Harrison began her career in rural South Carolina as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. It was a program that included sanitation, nursing care, medical, and dental care. She believes healthcare must be accessible to all, independent of economics.
Her medical career spanning 35 years included psychiatry, family medicine and OB-GYN. Her books are A Woman in Residence, Self Help for Premenstrual Syndrome and The Preteen’s First Book about Love, Sex, and AIDS. She has taught at Harvard, Rutgers, and University of Pittsburgh. She has authored academic papers and magazine articles. Her Op-ed pieces have appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The Chicago Sun Times.
Six years with Johnson & Johnson Corporate, first as Worldwide Director of Medical Affairs in Consumer, and then as Executive Director of the Johnson & Johnson Institute for Children gave her the skills and experience needed to plan, develop and lead Childlife Preserve Shishur Sevay.
Seema Gupta – Vice President
Mrs. Seema Gupta is a retired Joint Registrar of the Calcutta High Court. She is a long-time resident of our local community. She has been with Shishur Sevay since the beginning and she continues to teach Bengali in the early morning to the girls. She is often the face of Shishur Sevay in the community and with our regulatory bodies.
Dr. Purba Rudra – Academic Director
Rutgers University, Ph.D. Geography; Jawaharlal Nehru University: M.Phil, Geography. Dr. Rudra oversees Ichche Dana Learning Centre and teaches the abled and those with disabilities. Her interest and commitment is in finding ways of teaching to children whose early deprivation continue to impact on their education. She has taken a leadership in our advance technology and specialized learning techniques for children with learning difficulties, using Feuerstein Instrumental Enrichment and Search and Teach, having undergone training sessions conducted by Alpha to Omega in Chennai.