Prasad’s only Pathway
By Anusha Parthasarathy
Where others crib and cringe, Dr. A.D.S.N. Prasad did more. Learning from the tragic experience of his differently-abled sister, he started a mission to reach out to similar people. His non-governmental organisation Pathway, which has two offices in namma Chennai and one near Mathurantagam, primarily reaches out to people with special needs.
At an event organised in the city on Saturday, the organisation took a drastic yet important step: that of integrating children with special needs in a school that will also have normal children.
“My father was a renowned doctor and my family was well educated,” Dr. Prasad recalled at the event. “But when they realised that my sister was differently-abled they couldn’t take it.
No one outside even knew that I had a sister. Only when she passed away did people realise that my parents had a daughter also. This incident affected me a lot.”
Prasad was 21 years old and working as an audiologist and speech specialist, when he started helping those with speech difficulties. One day, a boy was brought along by his aunt for therapy but no one came to pick him up after. They later discovered that the aunt had suddenly taken ill and passed away the same evening. The boy, Karthik, had no other living relative to go back to.
And he became Prasad’s first foster child. Many more children came up and Pathway that started in April 1975 in a small flat in Adyar. For 11 years, it struggled to make it through, receiving no grants or donations from the government or the public. As the number of children kept increasing, it was becoming increasingly difficult to get funds.
“Finally in 1985, the government gave a grant. But it has not been sufficient. It did help me expand Pathway and from one small flat it moved to three locations.” Now, Pathway has three facilities. One is at Thiruvanmiyur, where 300 special people reside, the youngest being three months old and the oldest, 67 years.
The second facility is in Mahabalipuram and is an adult medical facility. The third is near Madhuranthagam, which is a 60-acre agro farm cum orphanage for normal kids.
The special students are not only given education, they are also trained in vocational activities like baking, carpentry, jewellery designing, candle making, painting and toy making.
The bakery has been running on a professional scale since the last five years and has been providing bread and other pastries to BPOs like Slash Support on a daily basis for the past three years and has been greeted with tremendous response for the same. “They are masters and don’t need any kind of assistance in their work”, says Prasad.
It has joined hands with a San Diego based NGO called Sabin’s Children Foundation to integrate normal children with the special ones. Judge Sheffield, who was a former judge of California Superior Court, visited Pathway for the first time in 1989 and decided to pitch in. He invented a Banana Slicer a few years ago and all the money generated from it has been going to Pathway.
The integration plan will take place at the agro-farm near Mathuranthagam which is equipped with everything from a mobile hospital to a school. Now, it will not only house normal kids, but also around 300 mentally disabled children. This plan is already under construction and will be completed in November.
“When these children integrate with the normal ones they will learn from each other, the lessons that cannot be taught otherwise,” smiles Prasad.