Our 2nd Annual Special Mom Awards was held on May 13, 2018 (Mother’s Day), where we celebrated the lives of 15 incredible Mothers of Special Children. They each received a Cash Award of INR 15,000/- and a Special Lifetime Pass entitling them to free services from Sri Arunodayam.
As we pored over the unique stories of each potential finalist (and there were many!) we couldn’t help but get into their world and experience what they were going through. Of course, it was incredibly difficult to choose just 15, but with the help of an eminent panel of judges whose selections were followed up by personal home visits, we were quickly able to determine the most deserving mothers for 2018.
And so, Anuradha K (Kanchipuram), Jayara (Chennai), Kalaiselvi (Cuddalore), Kamala V (Chennai), Kanniselvi G (Kanchipuram), Krishnaveni G (Thiruvallur), Lalitha Devi Chima Kurthi (Ongole, Andhra Pradesh), Meera Balachander (Chennai), Murugeshwari T (Madurai), Premavathi Bai (Kumbakkonam), Senthamil Selvi B (Thiruvallur), Sharadha Devi (Kanchipuram), Usharani (Chennai), Vedavalli V (Thiruvallur) and Vishali Kemisetti (Warangal, Telangana) have joined our ‘hall of fame’ as the second batch of ‘Special Moms’ who are now an integral part of the Sri Arunodayam family.
These are mothers who choose to remain faithful to their children, refusing to abandon them despite being encouraged to do so by the communities in which they live. That they have stoically resisted and trodden a new path toward self-discovery and loyal commitment to their defenceless children speaks of the calibre of women we seek to honor and promote. The award recognizes their progressive abilities as having made a significant impact in the lives of their children and demonstrating an ability to be positive role models of parenthood in the community.
Our Chief Guest, Mr. Pandia Rajan – MLA and Minister of Tamil Development, Culture and Archaeology, his wife Mrs. Latha Pandia Rajan – Director of Ma Foi Strategic Consultants, Mr. Murali Mohan – Associate Vice President Operations, LogixHealth Solutions, Mr. Joseph Ravi – District Differently Abled Welfare Officer (DDAWO), Chennai, and Mrs. Sheeba – Speech Therapist & Audiologist, State Resource Training Center (SRTC) together with Sri Arunodayam’s long-standing donors, gave away the prizes.
The mothers and their families enjoyed a wonderful evening together with Sri Arunodayam staff and children, donors, benefactors and well-wishers. The audience comprised over 650 people from across sectors who were deeply moved by the mothers’ stories that were captured on film. They witnessed the true essence of motherhood coming to life through hardship! The struggles and achievements of both mothers and children clearly showed them to be people of incredible strength.
This time around, the entertainment was provided by ‘special’ artistes themselves! We wanted to showcase these amazing people who have become professionals in their own fields.
Rekha, a visually challenged girl, sang the invocation song. Rekha is a very accomplished artiste who created a record of singing 140 songs non-stop for 12 hours! She has completed her Music Teacher’s training. Krishna (our Special Mom finalist’s son) played percussion with a team coached by Lakshmi Mohan, the founder of Sowmanasya Trust working with autistic children. All members of this group, except Ilavarasan, have autistic behavior issues. Ilavarasan is a visually challenged 12 year old who can play any percussion instrument with ease! Jyothikalai, a visually challenged 17 year old, studied Carnatic Violin and Western Keyboards, completing 6th grade in Trinity College. She too has completed her Music Teacher’s training and is a playback singer in the Tamil Film Industry. She features in many top publications. Ashwin Prabhakar is a keyboardist certified by Trinity College of Music, London. Despite being diagnosed with learning disability, Ashwin completed his schooling at Saraswathi Kendra Learning center and pursued an education in music, becoming proficient in Carnatic, Western and Light Music genres. He takes one-to-one music classes for challenged children, apart from regular keyboard classes at his music Centre – ‘Ashwin Prabhakar Recording Studio’, in Anna Nagar. Sri Arunodaym’s children performed many dances under the able tutorship of Reshma Gunasekaran, a classical Bharathanatyam and Kuchipudi dancer who is quite famous on YouTube. She learned Kuchipudi under Kalaimamani Shri Madhavapeddi Murthy, Director of Siva Foundation, Chennai and is currently training under Kalaimamani Kutralam Selvam who happens to be the son of the legendary Nattuvanar Kalaimamani Chevalier Muthuswami Pillai.
The mothers were deeply appreciative of Sri Arunodayam’s Special Lifetime Pass, which was gifted to them with the Award. The Pass is carefully thought out to provide a lifetime of free services to each year’s finalists and their children. The promises Sri Arunodayam made include:
- Automatic membership to Sri Arunodayam’s SPECIAL MOM FORUM – a project aimed at empowering all special mom finalists through regular training programs to help them advance in caregiving and personal areas of development. Such empowerment will help shape them into powerful agents of change in society.
- Free short duration stay for their children in an emergency: The mothers are entitled to leave their children in our care for limited periods of time when they may be required to travel and have no one to care for their children during those periods.
- Sri Arunodayam as custodian and official guardian of their children: Understanding their anxiety concerning the future of their children on their demise, Sri Arunodayam offers the parents an option to appoint us as custodian and official guardian of their children. Sri Arunodayam will either induct or network with peer organizations to enable a safe home for the children on their parent’s demise.
The Special Mom Award will be an annual event as we quest for applicants from across the country for the 15 most deserving finalists.
Hear it from our Special Moms
Anuradha’s daughter was a caesarean baby, born with no neck and a huge lump on the back of where her neck was supposed to be! People refused to help with the baby, which added to the parents’ anguish.
Both of Jayara’s children live with Cerebral Palsy. When they did not show signs of normal development after birth, she took the initiative of working with the Hospital to find the best solutions for them.
Kalaiselvi married a distant relative. Her son could not walk or speak even after 3 years and he was declared intellectually challenged. Suffering several other issues, the child needed constant care and she gave up going to work to care for him.
Kamala’s husband just could not accept their autistic son. This drove the couple to divorce. Being the person she is, Kamala determined to do everything she could for the boy, and completed a Diploma in Special Education Mental Retardation (DSEMR). She graduated as a Special Educator and landed a fulltime job!
Kanniselvi is the mother of four children, two of whom are intellectually challenged. Taking her son for a haircut one day, the barber chased them away thinking they were beggars! She fights for the rights of her children and says that we must pay no attention to those who discourage us.
Krishnaveni’s son did not cry at birth; he was underweight and had jaundice. They took him to a neurologist as he suffered from repeated bouts of fits. And then, tragedy struck – her husband died, leaving her with two children to support on her own.
Lalitha Devi Chima Kurthi
Lalitha had great expectations for her son, but 13 years later she finally accepted the fact that he would not be independent. With acceptance came clarity and Lalitha determined to provide every facility for his rehabilitation within her home.
Although her son’s early milestones were normal, his schooling (mainstream till the 6th standard), was difficult – especially at exam time. “He can be a slow learner or be learning disabled” they said. And thus began this mother’s search into the beautiful inner world of her son.
If parents of intellectually challenged children get over their sadness and start training their children early on, they will surely develop well and even become achievers! Only with love and kindness is this possible, says Murugeshwari, mother of 23 year old Divya.
Premavathi’s daughter was born normal. The child developed high fever one day and the hospital botched up the treatment, resulting in the child’s brain getting affected. Both Premavathi and her husband are in their late 70s and are at their wit’s end.
This mother used to carry her child to school every day. It was a struggle, especially in the crowded buses. She decided to be of assistance to herself and her community by opening a special school in her area. Till date, she has trained more than 400 special children, including her own.
Sharadha knew nothing about raising a special child but circumstances forced her to learn. Her husband refused to support the child and after going through a lengthy depression, Sharadha decided that enough was enough and began to focus on her child’s development.
Usharani is the mother of two intellectually challenged children. Accepting their situation, the parents swung into action to develop their children as best as they could. They hope to live long, they say, not for their own sakes but for the sake of their children whom they believe are God’s gifts to them.
Vedavalli is the mother of three intellectually challenged children. Her husband died when they were very young and this mother has struggled ever since. They starve on the days when she cannot get work! She’s often thought of ending it all but says she will not do it because she loves them deeply.
Vishali is the mother of two intellectually challenged children who she believes have made her a strong woman today. She has struggled through judgement and condemnation from society, which only served to make her more resilient and focused as a mother.
[Philanthropist & Social Activist]
I feel truly blessed to have been part of the Special Mom Award function. It is the most humbling experience and gives our lives so much perspective. Each mother’s story is one of courage, grit and a “never say die” attitude reminding us of how insignificant our worries and problems actually are.
The concept of not stopping at just an awards function but addressing real issues with a long-term perspective and problem solving approach is so commendable! I pray that each year sees Iyyappan, Chitra and their wonderful team at Sri Arunodayam grow from strength to strength. “Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves” – shine on Team SACT!
Sr. Mercy George
[Principal, Good Shepherd’s Matriculation Higher Secondary School, Nungambakkam, Chennai]
I was extremely happy to be present at this function. I was so inspired by how Sri Arunodayam honored these mothers who go through so many struggles to take care of their special children. They are the true unsung heroines of today. Sri Arunodayam took the trouble to prepare videos of each mother’s story which was very good. It was touching to see how these mothers take care of their children by giving them their best despite the hardships they face.
I admire Iyyappan’s passion and vision, and his selfless service. May God bless you Iyyappan and help you reach out to many more such mothers and children.