By YKA Staff:
In 2005, Mr. Pauzagin Tonsing and Mrs. Dondouching, a young couple in Pearsonmun village, Manipur, were blessed with a baby boy. They called him Malsawn meaning ‘blessed’. As time went by, Pauzagin, realised that his little boy, was born with a sight impairment. He also suspected that Malsawm was autistic. But the nearest special needs school, was an impossibly inconvenient two-hour drive away in the capital city Imphal. So, Pauzagin gathered the community, and it was decided that the villagers would build a fully accessible school, brick by brick, themselves.
It wasn’t easy – Pauzagin sold his land to buy the plot, and the villagers used their own modest wages and some donations, to build the school. In an area where most citizens earn a daily modest wage and there are no other facilities for the disabled, those with disabilities and their families led lives of stress, frustration, and loneliness, as well as the exhausting effects of stigma. The Malsawn Initiative sought to change all of this, and the school was officially opened in 2011.
The village’s act of will soon caught the attention of the United Nations Development Programme. Through UNDP’s volunteer programme, the initiative received a boost, by way of access to specialist staff trained in the areas of physiotherapy needs, speech therapy, special education and school administration.
The school’s aim is to develop the potential of all students, using the most helpful and appropriate methods and to create a caring environment. Malsawn, being a boy who loves music, was taught speech therapy using rhymes and singing. Being sight-impaired, he was also taught through tactile information, using an aid as simple as a few strings glued to a card (watch the video below, to see how children learn, here).
While the school has become a wonderful place for children to blossom, not all can make it to school. Which is why the initiative also offers home-based care for those, too physically impaired to leave their homes. It also provides an open door service for those children who have not yet been able to register for proper classes at the school, due to a shortage of resources. All of this is continually developed and managed by the Centre for Community Initiative, set up by Pauzagin and his wife Mrs. Dondouching, to help leverage the power of communities, and in particular, focus on persons with special needs. They describe themselves as ‘part of a puzzle, where everyone fits!’
Today, 30 students attend the school while 40 have registered for the open door service. Sadly, Malsawm is no longer one of them. On April 23rd, this year, he passed away. But though he did not see a thing or speak a word in his short life span, his life inspired a village to come together and build something of great value. The Malsawn Initiative has come to be a beacon of hope around the world, to those innocents in society who are often marked by stigma.
Featured and banner image source: Centre For Community Initiative