Medha Annual Day
Initiative of Sankara Healthcare Foundation
By Vaidehi Venkatesan
Sankara Healthcare Foundation celebrated their “Medha Annual Day” event on Saturday, March 18, 2023 at 3.00 PM at the First Congregational Church, Shrewsbury.
“Medha”, meaning intellect, is an initiative to provide differently-abled children and their families, with a platform for social interaction, Hindu cultural instruction, and a community support forum for their families. The classes provide group instruction that encourage interaction with peers, as well as individual instruction that is catered towards specific needs of the child.
Medha teachers and students exist across the country and the two chapters that currently serve these are the East coast chapter and the West coast chapter.
- The East coast chapter of Medha, coordinated out of Massachusetts, currently serves children from FL, MA, RI, NJ, PA, VA and Ontario, Canada.
- The West coast chapter, coordinated out of Seattle, currently serves children from WA, CA, TX, AL.
The event started with a welcome address by Smt. Anitha Rajagopalan followed by the youth MCs Kum. Nithika Krishna and Kum. Harshini Kannan giving a brief introduction about Sankara Healthcare Foundation and Medha. A brief history of how Medha started pre-pandemic with four families was covered in the speech.
Smt. Sumathi Ravindrababu and Kum. Hamsini Kanakagiri then talked about the math and English, Language and Arts (ELA) tutoring support provided by Medha’s youth and adult volunteers, as instructed by Acharya in 2020 to provide life skill support to the children.
Following the introductions, the main event commenced, with differently-abled children of different ages displaying varying talents – from chanting slokas, narrating stories, enacting the meaning of slokas using dance mudras, singing kritis, to matching Gods with their respective vaahanaas. This was a hybrid event. The event had performances from differently abled Medha students across the country. The students from New England performed in person, while students from other states and Canada performed virtually. Over 25 children participated and over 150 audience members were present in-person to cheer the children and families.
It was an absolutely heartwarming experience for the families of these differently-abled students to see how Medha was able to mobilize and organize this truly spectacular program. They not only taught all their students irrespective of the challenges they might face, but also gave the children a wonderful platform to perform, be appreciated and celebrated. True partnership between the Medha volunteers and families was in full display, which culminated in the celebration of the children.
Visual, spatial, and auditory accommodations were made for every single child to participate successfully in the event. This was especially wonderful to witness, because events like this don’t happen very often. It is noteworthy to mention that the event was very well organized and ran without a glitch. Delicious volunteer cooked meals were served at the end of the event to all the guests.
Differently-abled children and their families are often a marginalized group in community settings. They seldom get equal opportunities to learn and grow. Medha’s annual day serves as a beacon of light, leading by example and bringing an inclusive mind-set in the community. They truly follow the spirit of ‘No one left behind’.
Smt. Padmapriya Dasarathy, another Medha volunteer, made an earnest appeal to the audience, to include neuro-diverse children in community events. She gave a few pointers about social challenges faced by these children and their families, and also gave suggestions for how to overcome them.
Parents of differently-abled children often work very hard to seek out and provide an equal opportunity for their kids to be participating and contributing in their local communities to the best of their abilities, hoping this will eventually lead to equal citizenship opportunities and a higher sense of self-worth in their loved ones. However, it is an unfortunate truth that there are not many truly inclusive programs out there. The biggest barrier amongst community partners seems to be the lack of awareness and willingness to listen to this marginalized community, learn and adapt.
Sankara’s Project Medha has shown how this is not only possible but an extremely rewarding experience for everyone involved. They continue to evolve and adapt to every child’s needs and support them. Medha’s efforts pave the first steps in getting more allies for families of differently abled children in the Indian communities in the US.
All Medha star children who performed online and in-person received a trophy and a certificate. All young adult instructors and teachers were recognized and felicitated with a memento of thanks. Smt. Archana Sunil from Seattle WA, who started the Seattle/west coast chapter in October 2021, spoke about the efforts in that chapter.
Advisors Smt. Priyanka Mishra from Andover, MA and Smt. Surya Sree Vishnu Bhotla, from Herndon, VA, who both work with families with differently abled children, shared their views and advice for the families.
Smt. Deepa Rajesh gave the vote of thanks and appreciated the efforts put in by all the children and their families as well as the organizers and instructors.
The event concluded with Harati by Kum. Nandhini Murgan and a concluding prayer (Sarve Bhavantu) by all in-person children, followed by dinner and a thank you video from Medha children.
What was evident from this event was how Sankara Healthcare Foundation believes in, and invests in youth volunteers (from the number of Medha youth volunteers) to take this mission forward.
Anitha Rajagopalan, Archana Iyer Sunil, Arulselvi Kumaresan, Deepa Rajesh, Deeptha Venkatraman, Harini Janamanchi, Hema Vaidyanathan, Jayashree Thirumalai, Kesini Iyer Sunil, Lakshmi Lakshmanan, Laxmi Ganapathy, Mahalakshmi Narendran, Nandini Iyer, Nithya Murali, Padmapriya Dasarathy, Radha Krishna, Sumathi Ravindrababu
Aarushi Manikkam, Adrushya Iyer, Anagha Visak, Ananya Atri, Anish Guggilam, Hamsini Kanakagiri, Harshini Kannan, Hrithik Gopinath, Maya Vijay, Meenakshi Iyer, Nithika Krishna, Shreaya Vinodshankar, Shresta Vishnu Bhotla, Shriharran Radhakrishnan
To learn more about Project Medha, please visit https://giftofhealth.us/medha/