Keekli Bureau, 20th September, 2019, Shimla

The happiness in their eyes is evidence of the saying – “Happiness is not so much in having or sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

The need today is to create platforms where the specially-abled might find a forum to come forward and show what they are capable of, recognizing the inherent need of each child for competition, applause, acknowledgement and in celebration of the spirit which overcomes the constraints of affliction in its attempt to soar and reach new heights. In this direction we need to generate physical challenges – sports meets, creative pursuits – painting and cultural competitions for the differently abled.

The Festival of the Differently Abled was first organized in the year 2000 along with the help and support of ‘Chetna Sansthan’ and the ‘HP Red Cross Society’. It was for the first time in Himachal Pradesh that such a meet was organized. Eight schools attended and 193 children participated. Since then we have progressed and now have 19 institutions and 345 children participating. We always welcome new entrants and participants to this ever-growing family.

The participating schools in the festivities this year are Aarushi School of Hope, Shimla; Action for Barrier Free Handicapped Integration, Shimla; Asha Kiran, Bilaspur; Chinmaya Ashram, Dharamshala; Gyan Bharti School (Solan); Institute for Children with Special Abilities HI, Boys Dhalli, Shimla; Institute for Children with Special Abilities VI, Boys Dhalli, Shimla; Koshish Ek Asha, Rampur; National Association for the Blind, Kullu; Prem Ashram, Una; Rotary Sewa Assram; Roshani Day Care, Solan; Sahyog, Mandi; Udaan Day Care Centre; The Learning Centre, Shimla.

In 2001 Bishop Cotton School made this Festival an annual event; a part of the school calendar. A special Mela was added to the sporting events and the cultural and art competitions. The joy and enthusiasm of the participating children is the over riding spirit of this festival. The inclusion of a Mela especially for these children enhanced the fun element in the festival ensuring for all that it would be a ‘day to remember’. Reminders of this day would be in the tangible proof of the armful of certificates, medals, gifts and sweets they carry back along with the intangible but glowing sense of achievement.

A dream can only be realized with the wholehearted involvement and help of the larger community. This festival has created awareness in the community, which is continuously growing, and more people and organizations are getting sensitized to and involved in the issues at stake.

All this would not have been possible without the wholehearted and enthusiastic support of the staff, students and the entire community of Bishop Cotton School. Their contribution in making this a very ‘special’ day for the participants is lauded, for they have worked unflinchingly giving of themselves and reaching out to nurture hope and love.

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