Childlife Preserve Shishur Sevay

Focus: Disability, Education, Girl Child, Arts and Culture

OF the 15 orphan girls in their care, six can't walk, talk or feed themselves. The others, if unprotected, would become easy prey for traffickers. Shishur Sevay work to change these children's bleak futures.

Three-year-old Masum, for instance, was found abandoned under a train seat in 2013. She then developed pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis, and had a cerebral stroke. She was brought to Shishur Sevay as a fragile child with seizures, spasms and recurrent respiratory infections.

With the care provided at the home - from special educators and nurturing older “sisters” - Masum thrived and her sense of awareness grew. She has developed favourite caretakers, hums along at prayer time, participates in the inclusive dance classes and is always a part of the community.

But there are many Masums who need help.

India will likely have 24million orphans by 2021 with 6million in the eastern region (Bihar, Orissa, Jharkhand and West Bengal), according to a study. Shishur Sevay work in West Bengal to help the most vulnerable of this population – the girl child.

Ganga arrived aged four, weighing just seven kilos. She had no use of her arms and legs and couldn’t even lift her head. Today she loves school and has completed Class 4. She aspires to walk, talk and dance, but her strongest desire is to learn. She is now able to use a Tobii Eye Tracker that allows her to control the computer and speech with her eyes - and wants to write a book.

While the children like Ganga will never live independently, Shishur Sevay will never abandon them and are committed to their continual care.

Their success is seen in the children that they’ve fostered over the years. The girls came to Shishur Sevay from the West Bengal Child Welfare Committee as a result of abandonment, abuse or the death of their families. Over the years, in this loving environment, the girls have learned to aspire – they are potential doctors, teachers, dancers, or anything they can dream of becoming.

As founder Dr Michelle Harrison says: "The children are growing in all spheres, including their moral values of compassion and responsibility for helping each other, especially their sisters with disabilities. We need funds to build an endowment that will sustain the lives of these children and others."

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CURRENT PROJECTS
Inclusive Dance

SHISHUR Sevay believe music and dance enrich people’s lives, even for those who cannot fully participate, which is why all the girls begin the day with harmonium and song while they help feed, toilet and bathe their “sisters”. Some girls also study at Mamata Shankar’s Dance Academy learning a form of fusion and traditional dance and choreography. They have performed on stage for audiences. Those with severe disabilities participate in Dance & Movement classes, physiotherapy and yoga.

Inclusive Living

SHISHUR Sevay offer quality, skilled, secure, inclusive 24/7 residential care in a family-like atmosphere to 15 girls, six with profound disabilities. This includes food, clothing, medical care, physical therapy, education and recreation. Shishur Sevay strive to build confidence in each girl’s identity within society by focusing on Indian culture, heritage and religion. Their cultural programme includes dance, tabla, singing, daily 'prarthana' and the celebration of traditional festivals.

Inclusive Education

lCHCHE Dana is an informal inclusive school that uses innovative learning methods to build basic academic and life skills, foster curiosity and promote knowledge and confidence. Specially trained educators use computer-based, individualised learning techniques for each girl, including augmented communication devices for students with disabilities. None of the girls at Ichche Dana had any prior education. Shishur Sevay hope to expand this inclusive model out into the local community.

Testimonials

Having a foundation of inclusion that permeates social interactions, learning, living and recreation is part of what makes Shishur Sevay unique. They are an inclusive school in a part of the world where many may think would be impossible.

Prof. Anjali Forber-Pratt, Vanderbilt University, US

Shishur Sevay’s initiative in combating social injustices has inspired me to follow suit and given me a new career direction.

Suravi Changlani, former intern at Shishur Sevay, Kolkata

The girls here have been, and will continue to be, such an inspiration to me. These strong individuals have such a bright future thanks to Shishur Sevay. I can’t wait to see what amazing women they become.

Emily Mattson, former intern at Shishur Sevay, Kolkata

THE TEAM
  • Dr. Michelle Harrison Founder and Board Secretary
  • Seema Gupta Vice President
  • Ian Anand Forber-Pratt Board, Strategic Planning
  • Jayita Dey Board, Corporate Relations
  • Chaitali Begam Accounts Manager
  • Purba Rudra Board, Academic Director
  • Ria Nag Communications Officer