Unraveling the hidden talents

All are born alike but it's the choice of their life's mission that makes few noble. 'Hidden sprouts' the name sounds sweet isn't it! This is the name of an autistic school (NGO) in Visakhapatnam run by K Srinivasa Rao from last 13 years. Srinivasa Rao, a postgraduate in commerce from Bullayya college, is from a middle-class family. Perchance his attending a seminar on mentally retarded children has sown the seed for 'Hidden Sprouts'. He was so moved by the plight of the mentally challenged children and their parents that he immediately decided to do something to help them. His pursuit began and as a part of it he had done his Special B.Ed (in mental retardation), and then visited many organisations and schools of autism and worked on this project. In 2006, with the support of his family, he established a small unit in his own home with ten autistic kids. He used to bring the children on his vehicle to his home, keep them until evening and drop them off at their places towards evening. His objective is to train the mentally challenged children of all ages, to look after themselves so as to ease the burden of the parents. He trained and brought an excellent improvement in the children and this was well recognized and appreciated by the parents of the children.

Gradually the number of children increased and with the support of the local politicians and government officers, he could obtain a land from GVMC, and now this school has nearly 190 mentally challenged children of all ages. There are well trained teachers, who also work with the same nobility and commitment. The school is in MVP colony amidst serene and clean surroundings, Altogether, there are thirty-two staff members that include the teaching and non-teaching ones.

Despite their financial status all the children are looked after with same care and love. There are children of officers and employees along with the children from very poor families getting trained at 'Hidden Sprouts'.

"I may have started the school, but it's with all the blessings and support of many good hearts that it is in such stage," Rao humbly states. But all this was not done in a day and it took a lot of effort and support to establish the institution. Larsen and Toubro have constructed a building of three rooms (single floor) and has given the furniture, and HPCL and SALP has given buses and much more support is being extended to the school as a part of CSR activity by some organisations. The school transport is free and there are children coming from very distant areas in and around and also suburbs of Vizag. Every day nutritious lunch is given to the children and also health care is provided to all.

There are a lot of activities going on in the school with an aim to improve the mental ability of the children. The children are categorised as per the severity of autism level certified by a medical college. Based on the level, children with a little dexterity are taught some tasks like candle making, book binding and kitchen management. Some children are trained in origami. The decorative pieces that the children make with paper are a visual delight.

Speech, music, dance, yoga, spiritual, sports and games, dance therapies are regularly given to the children by trained staff. Children who cannot speak are trained in different physical tasks. The tiger dance therapy is specially designed for children to control their aggressive behavior as dancing to the drum sound will help the children to control their aggression.

When asked why he named the facility, 'Hidden Sprouts', Srinivasa Rao answers "Our motto is to bring out the hidden talents in these challenged children and help them to lead a dignified life." Outstanding performance by the children in all activities and winning many prizes in inter-autism school competitions makes Hidden Sprouts number one special school in Visakhapatnam.

"These children are my world and I revel in this world every moment. I think about how to improve these kids much more and to place them on par in dignity with normal children," Srinivasa Rao shares his aspiration. He plans to turn it into a residential school and to improve the infrastructure to accommodate many more children.

In spite of his commendable job, Rao keeps himself far away from all awards and felicitations. He says the joy in the eyes of the parents is the highest award he received. Visiting this place, one feels that Hidden Sprouts is not an institution but a large loving family. Abu Ben Adhem! May such tribe of people like Rao increase and help the needy!

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