WHEN ‘SPE­CIAL’ DREAMS TAKE FLIGHT

Marwar - - Editor’s Note - Text Pooja Mu­jum­dar

San­jay Bud­hia’s com­pany Pat­ton In­ter­na­tional Lim­ited may epit­o­mise en­trepreneur­ship, but his wife Minu Bud­hia’s in­sti­tute ‘ICanF­lyy’ rep­re­sents the other defin­ing facet of the Mar­wari ethos: hu­man­i­tar­i­an­ism. The trained psy­chother­a­pist and coun­sel­lor talks to MAR­WAR about de­vot­ing her time and re­sources to help peo­ple cope with life’s stresses.

In­dus­tri­al­ist San­jay Bud­hia’s com­pany Pat­ton In­ter­na­tional Lim­ited may epit­o­mise en­trepreneur­ship, but his wife Minu Bud­hia’s in­sti­tute 'ICanF­lyy' rep­re­sents the other defin­ing facet of the Mar­wari ethos: hu­man­i­tar­i­an­ism. MAR­WAR talks to the trained psy­chother­a­pist and coun­sel­lor who prefers to de­vote her time and re­sources to help peo­ple cope with life's stresses.

MORE THAN A DECADE AGO, MINU Bud­hia made it her life’s mis­sion to ‘En­able the Able’ in the field of men­tal health care. To­day, Car­ing Minds, her state-of-the-art cen­tre for psy­cho­log­i­cal growth and well-be­ing in Kolkata, shines as a bea­con of hope for many with its com­mend­able ef­forts to holis­ti­cally ad­dress is­sues of men­tal well­ness, both clin­i­cal and non-clin­i­cal, in peo­ple of all ages.

But it is through yet an­other or­gan­i­sa­tion, ICanF­lyy, an in­sti­tute for in­di­vid­u­als with spe­cial needs, that Bud­hia’s dream of do­ing some­thing path-break­ing in the field of men­tal health finds the strong­est voice yet. The first of its kind in Kolkata, ICanF­lyy be­gan to grow right from its in­cep­tion as a unit of Car­ing Minds in 2015—so much so that it had to move to big­ger premises in just two years. Bud­hia ex­plains why: “The num­ber of stu­dents was steadily ris­ing, and we were in­tro­duc­ing more and more ac­tiv­i­ties for them. I also wanted to ex­pand the fa­cil­i­ties we were of­fer­ing to cre­ate an ex­pe­ri­ence for stu­dents that catered to their mind, body and soul.” And with that ICanF­lyy moved to its cur­rent premises in May 2017—a five-storeyed cen­tre at 4B Valmi­kee Street, in Kolkata.

The ge­n­e­sis

Just like Car­ing Minds, ICanF­lyy too owes its be­ing to Bud­hia’s per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence as the mother of a spe­cial-needs child: Her younger daugh­ter, Prachi, was di­ag­nosed with At­ten­tion Deficit Hyper­ac­tiv­ity Dis­or­der (ADHD), bipo­lar

dis­or­der and low IQ. “As a mother, I was not only con­cerned about her time at school, but also her fu­ture. I won­dered what she would do when she grew up and how she would keep her­self oc­cu­pied. And, I re­alised that like Prachi, other young adults with spe­cial needs liv­ing in Kolkata too would not have much to do when their school­ing ended,” says Bud­hia. Trou­bled by this thought, she came up with the idea to em­power such spe­cial­needs chil­dren, teenagers and adults by es­tab­lish­ing ICanF­lyy—a place where they could be who they were and all that they wanted to be.

To­wards holis­tic de­vel­op­ment

There is no up­per age limit for stu­dents at ICanF­lyy. “Chil­dren be­tween the ages of three and nine join our Twin­kling Stars pro­gramme; chil­dren be­tween the ages of 10 and 14 join our Ris­ing Stars pro­gramme; and teenagers who are 15+ join our Su­per­star pro­gramme,” says Bud­hia. How­ever, be­cause chil­dren learn at dif­fer­ent rates in a reg­u­lar class­room, some slower than the oth­ers, ICanF­lyy of­fers one-on-one aca­demic as­sis­tance to help those with ad­di­tional learn­ing needs, through its Aca­demic As­sis­tance pro­gramme.

Ac­tiv­i­ties and train­ing mod­ules here fo­cus on trans­form­ing stu­dents’ lives through five key ob­jec­tives: build­ing con­fi­dence, de­vel­op­ing re­spect, build­ing skills, pro­vid­ing vo­ca­tional train­ing and cre­at­ing jobs. “Spe­cial ed­u­ca­tors and ex­pe­ri­enced in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als pro­vide train­ing that is tai­lored to the unique needs of ev­ery stu­dent,” con­tin­ues Bud­hia. “Our on-site job train­ing equips stu­dents to work in­de­pen­dently in a home set-up, or un­der min­i­mal su­per­vi­sion at var­i­ous work­places.”

Train­ing mod­ules com­prise ‘Bak­ery Prep and Pack­ag­ing’ at the Food Fac­tory, where stu­dents pre­pare FSSAI-ap­proved pack­aged food prod­ucts; ‘Dig­i­tal Skills’, which are taught at a com­puter lab to make stu­dents tech­savvy; ‘Data En­try’, which en­ables stu­dents pro­fi­cient in Mi­crosoft Word and Ex­cel to speed­ily de­liver er­ror-free data in data en­try re­lated jobs from cor­po­rate houses, small busi­nesses and in­di­vid­u­als; and ‘Art and Craft’, where stu­dents make book­marks, gift bags and tags, coast­ers, etc.

A vi­tal part of ICanF­lyy is Café ICanF­lyy, which is lo­cated in the same build­ing as the in­sti­tute. Com­fort­able and quirky, it has funky cush­ions, fun seat­ing, a karaoke cor­ner, a poster wall, a play zone for chil­dren and a swing and is run by spe­cial-needs young adults who have been trained at ICanF­lyy. This ‘nested work­place’ has not only been suc­cess­ful in help­ing them with mean­ing­ful en­gage­ment, but also giv­ing them a vo­ca­tion, which in turn has gone miles in im­prov­ing their self-worth.

A nur­tur­ing en­vi­ron­ment

At ICanF­lyy, each floor is ded­i­cated to a spe­cific skill set and func­tion, along with early in­ter­ven­tion and pre-vo­ca­tional pro­grammes. The bak­ery on the first floor, for ex­am­ple, is for stu­dents to pre­pare, bake and pack­age foods to be sold through the Food Fac­tory and Cafe ICanF­lyy. The third floor, sim­i­larly, houses the Frida Kahlo Room, an art and craft stu­dio

At ICanF­lyy, spe­cial ed­u­ca­tors and ex­pe­ri­enced in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als pro­vide train­ing that is tai­lored to the unique needs of ev­ery stu­dent

where knick-knacks like mugs, ket­tles and stor­age boxes are hand-painted by stu­dents. The fourth floor has the Johnny Bravo Room, a mini gym; the Satya­jit Ray Hall, an au­dio-vis­ual space; the Walt Dis­ney Room, a play ther­apy zone filled with toys; and a make-up and groom­ing room.

Apart from the class­rooms, there are life skills’ rooms that fo­cus on ev­ery­day skill-build­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. There is also a ded­i­cated room with a fridge, mi­crowave and cook­ing tools to help stu­dents learn din­ing eti­quette and how to set a ta­ble and pre­pare foods and drinks. Fur­ther, there is a Dig­i­tal Stu­dio, a space where stu­dents learn to make the most of dig­i­tal de­vices. To ad­dress any im­me­di­ate health is­sues that may arise, there is a mini in­fir­mary on the fifth floor, with a bed and a first-aid kit. The sprawl­ing, cov­ered ter­race is ideal for play­ing bad­minton, bas­ket­ball, kick­box­ing and other games. It also fea­tures a sand pit and a tram­po­line for younger stu­dents.

Reach­ing for the sky

ICanF­lyy has come a long way when it comes to giv­ing its stu­dents the free­dom to ex­press them­selves and sends a mes­sage to society that the stu­dents need to be re­spected for who they are and what they can do. Bud­hia con­sid­ers this grow­ing so­cial aware­ness about spe­cial-needs in­di­vid­u­als to be one of ICanF­lyy’s big­gest achieve­ments. Par­tic­i­pat­ing in var­i­ous events has in par­tic­u­lar helped ICanF­lyy achieve this goal. ICanF­lyy’s stu­dents have suc­cess­fully pulled off two an­nual con­certs and have been in­vited to per­form at pres­ti­gious events. Ad­di­tion­ally, in July this year, stu­dents or­gan­ised their first ex­hi­bi­tion at the in­sti­tute. “Ex­hibitors from across Kolkata par­tic­i­pated in this spe­cial life­style ex­hi­bi­tion. Stu­dents, who had been as­signed du­ties like ar­rang­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion decor and man­ning the re­cep­tion and help desks, as per their ca­pa­bil­i­ties and trained ac­cord­ingly for over a month, were ex­cited to wel­come guests. The re­sponse from ex­hibitors and vis­i­tors was ex­cel­lent,” says Bud­hia ex­cit­edly.

“My aim is to help ICanF­lyy grow by in­tro­duc­ing a new ser­vice or fa­cil­ity ev­ery year,” con­tin­ues Bud­hia. “We have just in­tro­duced a weav­ing loom at the in­sti­tute to open up more vo­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents. Ac­tu­ally, ICanF­lyy is fly­ing high and ex­pand­ing its hori­zons ev­ery day.”

Con­sid­er­ing the enor­mous im­pact that Bud­hia’s ef­forts have made in an area that most oth­ers tend to hide, we can­not help but agree with her.

Clock­wise from fac­ing page: Minu Bud­hia, psy­chother­a­pist, coun­sel­lor and founder-di­rec­tor of Car­ing Minds, ICanF­lyy and Café ICanF­lyy; The Early In­ter­ven­tion Hall that serves as a learn­ing and read­ing area for stu­dents; The con­sul­ta­tion room

Clock­wise from top left: Stu­dents work­ing out at the mini gym called Johnny Bravo Room; Stu­dents mak­ing hand­crafted coast­ers in the art and craft stu­dio called Frida Kahlo Room; Stu­dents learn­ing to make pizza dough at the bak­ery

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