When STARS first visited Meena in 2009, she was 12 years old, and was a fairly recent beneficiary of Sense International (India), which works with local partners to change the lives of deafblind people throughout India. Meena had been identified three years previously in 2006; bedridden, unable to walk, and unable to communicate with her family.
Her family are pastors, and so would typically migrate from one region to another. This became very problematic for the community based rehabilitation (CBR) workers working with Meena, but was met with little cooperation from her parents, who didn’t understand their efforts: “She has this condition, but she won’t live long. Don’t worry about her. However, the work continued, with the first priority being to get health treatment for Meena, who suffered from epilepsy. Meena was then admitted in to the local school, taking part in the school curriculum within inclusive education.
Today, the family have a stable home and are no longer migrating, due to good rain patterns in the local area. This is promising for Meena’s continuing development, and the results of her six years of work with the community based workers are evident.
Meena no longer suffers from fits, and can now independently clothe and feed herself. Six years ago she could not walk; now Meena is able to help her family with household tasks, such as taking the carton to their cow for milking. She also loves going to school, and pulls the CBR worker in its direction as soon he arrives! Perhaps most significant though is her ability to communicate her needs and feelings to those around her. For example, like many other 15 year olds, Meena is currently suffering from the pains of her wisdom teeth growing; she is able to demonstrate this by placing people’s fingers on her gums, to indicate where she is feeling the pain.
Sense International (India) has also witnessed an increased bond between Meena and her mother as a result of the work. Before training, Meena would only take instructions from her father, but now interacts equally with the whole family, including her mother and sister. Another major development that can be seen is the difference in Meena from when she was filmed for the STARS film and now. In the film, she is throwing things, where as now she finds the person’s hand and places it there. This is a big development in the life of a deafblind child, and a small sign of the significant impact Sense International India continues to have on Meena and her family’s lives.