Tuni Harrison Centre for Research, Training and Advocacy
Shishur Sevay was created to address three critical questions:
- Who are the children languishing in institutions, already rejected for adoption?
- What are their needs?
- Can we meet those needs?
If we could make a difference, could we apply these methods to address the thousands of children like ours who are languishing in institutions? Could Shishur Sevay be an agent of change?
Shishur Sevay’s Tuni Harrison Centre for Research, Training, and Advocacy is identifying, documenting, and building upon the learnings, strategies and practices that make it a replicable and scalable model to address the needs of the larger community of these children.
This centre was dedicated to Tuni Harrison. Tuni had been found under bushes about three hours away from Kolkata. She had Down Syndrome and suspected heart defect. At Shishur Sevay she was given Dr. Harrison’s surname. She later died in surgery at one of kolkata’a Multi-Specialty private hospitals. In the short time she lived, she’d had a profound effect on everyone who knew her. She died having a family, a mother, a name, and will live on in the research, advocacy and training done in her name.
The research has begun. Professor Anjali Forber-Pratt’s field of study is in inclusion, disability, and identity of the abled and differently abled. She has visited Shishur Sevay several times and set up the first computer programs for the girls. She is Didi to the girls at Shishur Sevay. In 2015, funded by Vanderbilt University, she came and interviewed the children and staff regarding our inclusive living and inclusive education. Below is part of the study she has presented.
Shishur Sevay has always documented the development of the model of care. This information is being organized to describe who are/were the children, what did they need, and could Shishur Sevay meet those needs.
Inclusion (living together), although normal within families, is not common in NGOs or government programs for children. While they may house both groups, the children do not usually mingle on a regular basis. Inclusion developed out of need at Shishur Sevay, so teachers had to adapt and find solutions to these challenges presented by Ichche Dana Inclusive School. Manuals and teaching guidelines are necessary and must be produced for other homes and schools to follow suit. Shishur Sevay has relied on special educators and other experts for instituting inclusive education. The use of advanced communication tools, like the Tobii Eye Tracker allow the children to really benefit in this environment.
Community understanding of disability can be a slow process, but little can happen without pressure to change and advocacy. Shishur Sevay can bring these issues to the fore in schools, public spaces, and transportation. The girls who have grown up at Shishur Sevay are committed to improving opportunities and acceptance of their sisters with disabilities.
Shishur Sevay will be taking inclusion into the community in the latter part of 2019 to early 2020. As a free of charge community service an inclusive nursery/preschool will open taking care of local children abled and with disabilities. The girls who have grown up at Shishur Sevay have wanted to do this for a long time. They will be teachers, leaders in our community.
Dr. Harrison observes that Kolkata reminds her of what it was like in the US forty years ago. President John Kennedy had a sister who lived in an institution, hidden from view. President Roosevelt did not want to be photographed in a wheelchair. These are changes that happen over time. Shishur Sevay is poised to contribute to that forward movement and to Building an Inclusive and Accessible India.