Sunshine in each others’ lives
From the moment I stepped in some years ago as a volunteer to take math activities, I have been suffused with the warmth at Anchorage.
I get glimpses of what one does for them as a volunteer through some remarks and actions. One member overcomes his inertia to attend workshop when he is reminded today is ‘Math day”. Another parent changes his son’s day so that he can attend ‘Math day’. With each there is a story. One helpful girl has appointed herself secretary to me. Another gives precious health tips for my husband. Such enthusiasm when motivated! My reward is in the smile in the tears of gratitude of another girl, at being recognized and encouraged by us and her family. Touching moments!
The teachers here, who are special people themselves, have been providing a supporting atmosphere, enabling a volunteer like me to give my best. I have been able to make break- throughs with the challenging members too. Volunteering makes me step out of myself. The compelling need to be at Anchorage makes me modify my travel plans each time, so that I do not miss Anchorage time.
Most importantly, I have the rare fortune of working and experiencing the unique atmosphere of purity caused by the giving and receiving of unconditional love. My friend is convinced that serving at Anchorage has helped me triumph during times of difficulties in my own life.
Thank You Anchorage!
My experience thus far has an enriching one that has enabled me to not only give back a small something to the world around me but also learn so very much from the warm and wonderful people at Anchorage. A special thanks to the staff for always maintaining such an inviting and happy atmosphere at the Anchorage.
On a cool spring morning in 2016 I met with some wonderful differently able teachers and I became a student.
I went to visit The Anchorage, an adult day care centre for differently able individuals, in Mumbai. There I met with several regular day care attendees and their caregivers. Most of them came in around the same time in the morning, already bathed, dressed and excited about attending the events planned.
There were around 15-17 attendees and Staff members. Each routine seemed to be pre-set and the centre members seemed quite familiar with it. One person was taking attendance, one was signing in the day and date calendar, and another was reviewing who was in charge of which activity. Wait! Did you think this was being done by the staff? No, not at all! This was being done by the differently able individuals under the supervision of staff members. Voluntary rotation of tasks, developing ownership, leadership roles.....this is the stuff that builds self esteem, motivation and confidence. What a marvellous development of the whole person! Kudos to The Anchorage and its plans that help to provide this level of care!
One attendee brought prasad with her. She knew what day and Hindu calendar puja day it was and was in the habit of bringing prasad for everyone from home. This was something she took upon herself and was very happy to do. She brought me some prasad and shared it with me and told me how to perform the pooja at my home. Precious!
Another regular attendee took me by the hand, realizing that I had no clue of what was going on. She took me to a table where she was assembling a nut and bolts joint, to be used in another machine unit at a factory. She explained her work very well and told me who else was on the same task. Very lucidly done.
A quiet young man was supervising a small wire connection to be fitted to an assembly, and taught me how to precisely complete the task.
In those few minutes I became a student and the adult attendees of The Anchorage became my teachers.
The Anchorage has several well trained staff members, teachers as well as teacher Aides. They also have parent participants from the families of the adult day care beneficiaries.
A small program of greeting each other, daily yoga, and a fruit breakfast starts the day. Next the work distribution and task lists get started. And each group starts to work separately on work benches.
Director Anita Kumbhani and her staff bring in specially designed jobs or work requests from large companies. These would be perhaps assembling a few carefully planned tasks like a joint assembly, or making paper envelopes, or packaging handkerchiefs. Each project is carefully researched before being brought into the centre. It serves as a skill building tool, and could eventually provide an avenue to generate income. The culture in India is still not conducive to hiring a differently able adult with a little training into the regular workforce. But this is certainly an attempt at bringing more of a regular life experience into the world of a differently able adult.
As the day progressed I realized the experience of "Inclusive Behaviour". A group of differently abled adults drew me into their midst, included me in their friendship, and shared their learning with me. I was left with a feeling of sheer joy.
I decided to volunteer at The Anchorage because I wanted to make a difference. The arts, especially theatre and dance, have proven to be wonderful vehicles for self-expression, teamwork, confidence building and creative thinking and I wanted to share the benefits that come from working in the theatre with the adults at The Anchorage.
I volunteer once a week at Unit 1 where I play theatre-based games and exercises, and at Unit 2 where I teach dance. My first couple of weeks were an eye-opening experience. I noticed right away that I was dealing with a group of highly enthusiastic people who are open to exploring and using their imaginations before they even knew their imaginations existed! While some of them took their time to come out of their shells, others were eager to participate in activities that were new and unfamiliar territory.
The dance sessions at Unit 2 involve simple physical exercises that stimulate the mind and body as well as 45 minutes of pure, energetic fun! The adults make a list of songs for me to bring along and each adult gets to choose the song they’d like to dance as a group to that week. We take it in turns to choreograph steps to the music and piece by piece, create a dance sequence that gets more creative with every class. I’d like to particularly mention Veena, who for the first month did not utter a single word to me and was the shyest of the group and is now one of the first to suggest songs to dance to and steps to go with them. As they are more familiar with Bollywood music than I am, it is they who are the teachers and I, the student!
At Unit 1, we play a series of improvisational games that encourages everyone to unleash their inner creativity. A popular theme is taking trips around the world, where the adults begin from packing imaginary suitcases and boarding planes, buses or trains to various destinations. We enact picnics on the beach, visits to famous monuments, trips to the zoo, treks through a jungle and even dinners in fancy hotel restaurants! The adults play the roles of pilots, bus conductors, train drivers, chaiwallahs, waiters, animals, trees and actually create the environment they are role-playing in. I will never forget the first time I heard Yogesh prowl around the “trees” as a hungry lion and give an almighty roar that scared everyone around him! I have found that this not only helps them to understand the value of team work but it gives them the freedom and confidence to be anyone and anything they want to be.
6 months later, at Unit 1 and Unit 2 almost all of the adults can run the warm-up exercises without me leading them. They are beginning to discover the possibilities and potential of their own imaginations.
Whether it is through music and dance or through dramatizations of various situations, The Anchorage is a place for these wonderfully brave individuals to learn valuable lessons of life in a safe and non-judgmental environment. It is a true privilege to wake up every Wednesday and Thursday and know that I am going to a place that has changed my perspective and made me a more sensitive person today. I have grown, both professionally and personally, because of this incredible organization. And I am eternally grateful to Nirupa Bhangar, Anita, Shalini, Alka, Aban, Kanika, Rinku and the rest of the Anchorage staff for their support, unwavering dedication, commitment and most importantly, for giving me this opportunity. I wanted to make a difference to them. I never realised how much of a difference they would make to me.
25 years. A quarter century of unswerving dedication, unyielding commitment, omnipresent energy. And most importantly, a quarter century of altering lives. Altering lives, for the better, of over 30 young, middle-aged and older adults and their families. That’s The Anchorage- one of the only organisations in the city and country as well- that provides special ADULTS a platform where they can showcase their abilities in the best way possible, where they are taught to never underestimate their potential and where they can be themselves without the fear of being judged or looked down upon. It started off by 5 parents who realised that there was nowhere for their children to go after attending a special school in the city. Fuelled by the determination to make their children independent and not confine them to the 4 walls of their homes, these 5 parents transformed a truly unique concept into reality. Since its inception, the Anchorage has grown, grown in terms of numbers and grown in its reach. Here, disability is not seen as a weakness but as only something that warrants a new and unique approach or outlook, something that is to be embraced rather than cast off. The adults engage in different activities throughout the week. From assembling switches to pottery, from basic mathematics to art & craft, from yoga to dance, their skills are in no way limited. It is evident from the way they carefully place the red crayon right after the blue one or from the way they know just how exactly the ear bud is placed before the band aid that their attention to detail and strive to perfection is often greater than any of ours. Each evening, the workshop leaves each of the adults with a new experience to share at home with their family or a new conversation to ponder over. They find that little something to hold on to till they’re back again the next morning. And so the Anchorage strides on, with utmost confidence, optimism and the promise of touching several more lives in the years to come.
As I walked in I felt like I had entered a whole new world! A world out of reality, practicality and speed. A world of pure love & happiness. It seemed like a fairy tale to watch human beings as happy as they were. And then to think they were differently abled was almost impossible. They seemed to be living life the way it ought to be lived. I stared at each one of them as they rather excitedly did their own little things. I was in awe of the affection and kindness projected by them to new people and even amongst each other. The atmosphere lacked the usual feeling of competition and jealousy that resides in the heart of every other ‘normal’ adult.
These days, schools for differently abled are heard of. And we all satisfy ourselves thinking that such people are being taken care of. But what happens to them after school? Do they sit at home whiling away the rest of their time? The Anchorage is a workshop for these ‘children’ who are now too big to still go to their special school. It gives them a chance to live like the rest of us – adults.
Before I started volunteering there, I expected the place to be gloomy, myriad with a general sense of pity for these adults. I had mentally prepared myself to wear a smile on their faces just for the sake of the adults who, I assumed, knew no happiness. Boy was I in for a surprise! I was greeted at the door with a hug from Nikita, one of the adults, and a chorus of hellos from the rest of them. The bollywood music and constant giggling ensured that the atmosphere was far from the gloom that I had been expecting. It was like they were more than happy to welcome me into their big family.
And I did learn one thing; you don’t go to the anchorage to make them happy. You do it to make yourself happy.
When I opened the door, a little nervous on what to expect, I was greeted with a chorus of, “ HI! Good Morning!!”. That’s the kind of warm atmosphere at the workshop. Frankly, I was completely surprised at the joyful greeting I received when I first stepped in. Would you really expect a group of mentally challenged adults to welcome you, a perfect stranger, with all their hearts? No you wouldn’t. But that’s what sets Anchorage apart from the rest. This sheltered workshop is not a place to find adults with mental disabilities, it’s a place where you will find the happiest family of some of the most caring, compassionate and entertaining adults. I was a little apprehensive before I started working with them for the first time, but when I saw them all helping each other out with everything- may it be the screwing of a switch or packing medical packets- I knew that I couldn’t be happier in the midst of these remarkable people. Often, we refuse t find a little place in our hearts and lives for such people, but I can assure you, when you do, you’ll be a happier person. In fact, they won’t hesitate even for a second, to make you part of their special family. It isn’t true that such adults live in a mad world, they live in a perfect world with complete contentment and joyfulness, a world worth envying.
At first, everyone associates a physical or mental handicap with pain, angst and depression. But my experience at the Anchorage has taught me quite the opposite. I’m not aware of the hardships that the adults or their families may face at home but there’s no evidence of it once they cross over into the workshop threshold. Be it Nikita’s exuberance, Siddharth and Manan’s jokes, Cyrus and Hiral’s blushing shyness, Yogi’s ‘flirting’, Mehul’s love for cinema or Deven’s teddy-bear like silence every single one of them has a unique trait that will bowl you over at the first meeting.
During the course of two weeks, my friends and I devised ways of bunking college just to be able to come to the Anchorage and meet the adults. Because suddenly the thought of going back to college and meeting friends we hadn’t met in weeks seemed quite dull and uninviting. What started out as a way to kill time in the holidays became one of the most important things even after college began. These special people made my world more special.
Parent volunteering is a unique feature of Anchorage which helps parents understand what job works are being handled by the adults. Interaction with the adults help you know and understand each one of them also sharing their jokes and concerns along the way. They take a lot of pride in doing their job work and feel happy when they have done it well. Since it’s a parent co - operative, regular visits help understand the organization so if required to handle more responsibility at the workshop you are at least aware of the system.
I feel good, comfortable and get positive vibes
When Parul and I came to visit The Anchorage, we fell in love with it. I became a volunteer immediately. Kabir joined The Anchorage over two years later on turning 18. What we love most is the respect and dignity that our adults get – that is the source of their motivation and happiness. The sapling that the founding parents have planted with love and care years ago and which they continue to nurture with the help of the staff members, will surely continue to grow and blossom!
Volunteering at the Anchorage is a very calming and soothing experience for me. It is an oasis in the fast paced life that we parent’s face.
I love the atmosphere, love the adults and staff. I love to work with the adults because they also love to work with me.
Anchorage is like a home to me. By volunteering I come to know what is happening here and also get to meet lot of people.
I get moral support coming to Anchorage,feel light talking to others. We share our joys and sorrows. Many go to clubs, I go to Anchorage. I love Tuesdays ….my volunteering day.
I like working with the adults. It is a good experience. I like the staffs’ behavior with our children.
The Anchorage is a place where there are many adults who are affected by downs syndrome. These adults and I have a great time at Anchorage. I really like to idea because truly it is for a brilliant noble cause.
I have learnt more than them in areas of accepting one and all without prejudice! I am welcomed with spontaneous love on my work day.
Coming to the workshop gives Dinaben sheer joy and a good feeling. Besides that, her family is proud that she is volunteering in such a place. After working at the workshop she has realized that the worries of the parents of the members are much larger than our own. Our worries seem inconsequential compared to theirs, are her words. The concern the members show towards her has touched her the most. They will compliment her if she is looking good, tell her they miss her when she does not attend the workshop, and even ask after her husband’s health. She values the respect shown to her by parents, staff & members.