The story of
success story :
the outcome of Community Service Program| SEHER
picture of Manda
Manda Salunkhe, a woman in her early 40’s came to Seher clinic through community support worker, Nazia.
Manda had a developmental condition, mental retardation (Matimandatva as per her sister’s report)
and fits. Manda also had difficulty in walking due to physical deformity in her legs and feet. She used to have frequent slips and falls; and had a number of injury marks on her body due to the falls. She had lost most of her teeth due to the falls.
Her hygiene was poor, her clothes were often soiled. The only ways through which people connected with her were fear, disgust or mockery and teasing. She would often be found wandering on the streets, snapping at people, speaking to herself,falling, being troubled
by people who made fun of her, fighting with them, swearing at them, exchanging abusive words and just very alone.
When we saw her, we realized what we as a society had done to her, to ensure that she was pushed away, kept away and forgotten.
Manda endured great deal of suffering and pain.
Although she came from a good socio-economic background, she was living her life with very limited resources. It seems that nobody wanted her.
She had a sister, Chanda, and a brother. She stayed with her sister and the sister’s family. The joint family comprised of Chanda's husband, in-laws, children, her husband’s second wife; their bother and their aunt, etc. good!
Manda lost her parents at very young age of twelve and if at all she knew any love from them, then that was the last of what she received. Ever since, her journey of loneliness began. Her brother too had a similar
condition, he hardly spoke, would disappear through the day, leaving very early in the morning and returning home very late at night. No one cared either for him or for Manda - as long as they were out of the way, life was was good!
One of the first things done with her was to just trail her, understand her 'beat'- where she went, what she did, whom she spoke to, identifying possible caregivers on the way- people who could support her in her daily beat.
It was noticed that she frequently hung around the Sonawane Hospital OPD, a public maternity hospital, saying that she had a baby in her stomach and that she was there for her check up. Nobody entertained her, ofcourse.
The next step was to very slowly and with great amount of sensitivity befriend her. The only meaningful exchanges she had had with people were as mentioned,based on fear/disgust/anger/mockery.
To break this and extend her a hand of care and support was going to be very challenging. And it was. Her response to the smile offered, to a greeting made, was reciprocated with a string of abusive words.
We kept at it. The fact that she atleast noticed and responded was encouraging enough. We kept doing this day after day for some weeks, just smiling at her, showing our face, waving at her, asking her how she was, addressing her by her name, asking her if she had anything to eat and telling her that we will meet her again tomorrow.
It worked! She did not start talking to us ofcourse, but she stopped abusing us. She would just very quietly look at us briefly and then move away.
This was also a time when the group sessions for people with high psychosocial disabilities had started. She was invited to be a part of the program.
The sessions were done next to the OPD, where she was usually found wandering. The place was physically indicated to her.
A few weeks went by like this. One day, we noticed that she hung around the premises near the venue without walking away and leaving the place as she usually did. The next was that she came and stood near the door of the session
room without stepping in. Very soon, she came into the room but stood in a corner. One day, she sat down outside the circle (members in the group usually sat in a circle formation).
Eventually she became a part of the circle. From watching, observing, deciding and making a choice we saw Manda move from the outside to the inside!
Before we knew it, she started engaging with others. Initially just telling her name, to telling the names of others, to actually noticing that someone was absent in the session.
Slowly as she started speaking to us, through the various activities we did together in the group, we got to her, to know Manda, the person she was, and the stories she carried.
Her brother -in- law had in the past abused her physically, sexually and verbally. She had stayed outside most of the time due to problems at home. People in the house, she said, did not care for her. They set off dogs on her, abused her, beat her up and told her to go away. She complained about her brother-in-law to the community workers befriended her. She was happy to be out of her home.
She would often starve and beg so that she could buy something to eat. She had a very vivid sense of the loss she was experiencing. To have so many people around you, to have a roof over your head, a place to sleep, be warm and comfortable, to have food on the plate, to be cared and nurtured seemed like a distant dream for her.After interventions, things started
changing slowly for Manda. Though she used to wander through the day, did not apparently know how to speak to people, had ‘mental retardation’, and did not wear a watch, she arrived every Tuesday at the venue for the group session, five minutes before time on her own!! She developed a peer circle in the groups- Pramila and Datta Bhau became her close friends.
A local tea vendor and the local guards from the hospital were pulled in as caregivers for Manda. She started taking a bath and coming to the sessions. A web of support was slowly being created around her. Individual ABT sessions with Manda were done. Family counseling on a routine basis,
putting pressure on them to be accountable, to stop violence to provide her with food and basic necessities were negotiated with them. Manda started expressing herself more freely.She was referred to and assisted for health checkups, eye check up, dental check up and given nutritional support.
She was referred to Unani Hospital for massage and help with body pains, rigidity and aches.
The Manda we saw and the Manda we knew were very different. All ‘temper tantrums’ stopped. She was assertive in her talk and clearly stated what she wanted and
what she did not want. She shared her aspirations. Yes, Manda too had aspirations and why not- this was a person behind labels, a person who became known because of the effort, time, patience and interest done and shown to her to know her to connect with her.
One day she got 2Rs biscuit packets for all group members from the money someone had given to her for food. She said that it was her group birthday and she wanted to celebrate! Manda teaches us many lessons on inclusion.
Working with her has been a huge learning for us too. Today, she continues to wander, drops in occasionally to say hello, is able to maintain her safety and boundaries, is able to negotiate with people in her own ways and is a much happier, freer person.
This was story no 19.
It is a true story
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