Bangalore school for specially abled children offers peace oasis
By Andrea Rego
The Cottolengo Residential Special School is home to the specially abled and all of its residents belong to various states of India. The school is run by the Cottolengo Convent in Bangalore, Karnataka, India. The campus is serene and also has its very own Physiotherapy Centre for both residents and the public.
Cottolengo is known for its provision of shelter and rehabilitation to the specially abled from all walks of life. Originating in Italy where its Founder first established centres to provide shelter, care, and education for the poor and disabled who were rejected by society, here they have found a place to call home.
The Cottolengo vision and mission
The Patron and Founder St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo believed in ‘Providence’ and it is the inspiration by which both the home and school function. Cottolengo offers charity and service, it is a place where the Providence of God triumphs above all.
Started in the year 1989, it serves as a nurturing ground and safe haven for hundreds of specially abled children, who are cared for by the Cottolengo Sisters.
The Cottolengo Bangalore Residential Home is reserved mostly for the poor and the orphaned and has been in service since 31 May 1989.
This is where care for severely mentally disabled girls with a multipurpose rehabilitation service is administered along with the provision of occupational activity.
Routines and responsibilities
The girls follow a daily routine, beginning with kitchen work, where those who are able cut vegetables and use the kitchen appliances. The supervisors make sure that the girls have a balanced diet consisting of vegetables, rice, meat, lentils, etc.
The girls are assigned unique roles for meal times, one set of plates and dishes for the meal. One of them is in charge of water distribution.
After meals, the girls sometimes have ice cream and then clean up the tables before they proceed with other activities. The girls are assigned a set of tasks which they undertake with utmost sincerity and dedication.
The Cottolengo Sisters believe in the importance of practical knowledge that enables them to be self-reliant and confident in their day-to-day activities. The girls learn about the beauty of teamwork and their mutual dependence through experience.
Cleanliness is very important and the girls ensure their surroundings are clean. The Cottolengo Sisters take utmost care for the well-being of the girls as well as their caretakers' health and well-being.
They also take part in many skill enhancement activities that they find interesting and easy to perform. This is done to ensure that they develop habits of self-sufficiency and improvement.
The origins of Cottolengo
The girls love story time and the history of the Home of Providence is a wonderful one. “A French woman, Mrs. Maria Gonnet, while traveling by train from Milan to Paris together with her husband and three children was compelled to break her journey at Turin. Though she was with child, she could not get admitted to any hospital or have access to professional help. So, the poor mother breathed her last. This event of a sad and sorrowful separation of the mother from her family shook St. Joseph Cottolengo so much that he was moved to pity. He began to think of many mothers in similar situations and to deliberate on helping such homeless ones. He sensed the urge from within realizing that God called him to dedicate his life for the benefit, betterment and welfare of the hapless, helpless and hopeless homeless ones”.
This story is an excerpt from ‘Sisters of St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo’ written for the Archdiocese of Cochin Website by His Excellency, (Late) Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara, Bishop of the Diocese of Cochin, where the Cottolengo house was first established in India, then, it was called the ‘Little House of Divine Providence’.
The Sisters and their service
The Cottolengo Sisters provide Education for persons with intellectual, developmental disabilities like autism and cerebral palsy. They offer speech therapy, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy.
The residents who are capable of gaining a school education and manage to study, are given help to prepare for exams which they undertake at the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS).
Those who live with disabilities that do not allow a traditional education are provided with various types of vocational training, skills enhancement and handicraft work.
When nature nurtures
The girls love to be one with nature and take care of it as much as it nurtures them. The gentle breeze, the blooming flowers - daisies, hibiscuses, roses, jasmines - planted and watered by the girls themselves, are an open invitation to sparrows, pigeons and other birds of song.
The gardens are home to all these creatures and also trees that bear fruit - mangoes, oranges, jackfruits that the girls harvest in the due season. The girls showcase the true meaning of living in harmony with nature, encountering the splendour of the Almighty manifested in his creation.
The girls spend their prayer time in the beautiful grottos where a lot of benches are placed just for them to spend some quality time with mother nature and let nature around replenish the energy lost from any form of exhaustion, physical or mental.
A place to call home
The girls are enthusiastic when they get to meet visitors. Cottolengo is open to visitors to be a part of the family and if possible, donate and provide for the daily needs of the children.
Cottolengo has become a forever home to few of its residents who have nowhere else to go and no place to call home.
Established long ago, its services rely on Divine Providence that takes the form of charity and service the public donate to help improve the lives of the less privileged and meet their special needs. Cottolengo is sustained by the protective care of God, for every resident is loved and is precious.