Janice Lucas, the Senior Advisor for CBM Australia’s International Programs, visits a project in India.
Visiting our CBM partner, in the hills of Megalaya, North East India, I did not expect to have my perspective on disability so revitalized.
One only needed to spend a day surrounded by the children that attend a CBM partner school to learn what it is to simply love.
The centre has been partners with CBM for several years, working now with CBM Australia to implement the RAISE Inclusive Education project.
The school was set up for deaf and hard of hearing children, and children with speech difficulties. Over time it has become even more inclusive to those who are most vulnerable. Supported by the local church community, it is clear to see that its foundations in faith and love have enabled it to transform lives.
The RAISE project – raising up love
Through the impact of the CBM RAISE project, the school is now fully committed to becoming an inclusive school that is also a resource centre to others, by demonstrating what ‘being inclusive of all children’ really means.
It does this by supporting teachers from local government schools and local community workers to achieve this in practice. The project has trained two teachers as key resources to work with local schools, local community teams, and school resource people, to achieve the goal of education for all.
Inclusion in a school activity
This morning I attended a Sunday service for the children and teachers. As I write, there is a thunderstorm rolling around the mountain tops. The rain is pouring down in sheets, and the water flowing down the hills and into the nearby lake.
Despite the rain, around 200 children from the residential hostel attend the 7am service, already in tidy uniforms and with happy faces. To help children understand what is being taught, two interpreters help the students follow the service in both English and sign language.
Many children around me were also joyfully singing throughout the service.
As I walk out, a small groups of girls gather around me, chatting in sign language and inquiring where I am from, asking how long I was staying and what my name is. All of which I have now learned to say in sign language as well!
Learning from those with disabilities and those who help
I learned many things – not only signs for ‘love’, ‘together’, and ‘God’ – and saw real inclusion in practice as we were able to join together in the service.
My novice attempts to communicate through sign language with the children proved to be a challenge. But they were so patient with me, laughing as they taught me.
To this day, the compassion and passion demonstrated by the teachers and members of these partner organisations inspire me. The staff work their whole life to teach the many children around this area who are so very disadvantaged and excluded from education through no fault of their own.
A love for all humanity
At this time, as I look out across the lake, I remember the lake of Galilee where Jesus taught. Jesus asks to bring the little children to him. His message is clear: We should all care for all of them and see through their eyes.
The lesson for me is was about how we ought to love each other and all humanity. Starting right where we are.
That day, I learned how our CBM partners here in the hills of India are certainly doing that, day to day. They bring such change and joy to these children’s lives, and my visit was an inspiring and unexpected lesson.
Photo: children at CBM partner school, with Janice centre (green-edged scarf)