Navkshitij, A non-government organisation is a very happy abode for 61 special children in this city. As part of their commitment to overall development, they went to Kulu on their 8th Himalayan trek.
Dr. Nileema Desai, Founder, Navkshitij, speaks to us and gives us an insight into the organisation and their recent trek.
How did you conceptualise the idea of taking mentally challenged children for trekking?
Navkshitij believes in the overall well-being of the children. Here we try to develop the child not only in terms of coping their debility, but also stress on the children emotional, physical and mental development. We came up with this idea in 2003 while planning a walk-a-thon from Pune to Lonavala for mentally challenged friends. It was only after its success that we realised that if they can walk, they can trek too..
Why did you choose a Himalayan trek for the children?
We plan various physical and mental training sessions like tree plantation and hiking throughout the year. We decide to trek here as there are specialised people who can help us with the trekking. There are base camps too that can be helpful in case of any emergency. Also, a trek in the woods is like a natural therapy that helps in keeping them fit, both physically and mentally. The treks are not goal based wherein we decide to reach up to a certain height. It was more of a fun and learning-based activity.
What kind of special care or precautionary measures did you take with regards to the children for the trek?
For such Himalayan treks, we conduct training sessions every month at local trekking spots in Pune like Sinhagad and Parvati. Only then we decide whether to go on with the trek or not. When it comes to precautions, there are special orientation sessions conducted to educate them about things like boarding trains, climbing train berths, using public toilets, socialising etc. We also have many volunteers who look after the children throughout the journey.
What about medical aid?
Being a medical professional and trekker myself, I ensure that we don’t go above 12,000 ft where breathing can be difficult. We also carry oxygen cylinders and medical kits to address any emergency.
Why only 34 children for this trek experience?
We had 30 special friends from Navkshitij and four from another similar institute. It entirely depends on the interest of the students. But we avoid taking children with major behavioral or health issues. Although we have volunteers accompanying us, children with epilepsy and major balance issues are refrained from trekking. Sometimes the parents also are reluctant to send their child to the trek.
Do you notice any positive development in the children after the trek?
Yes. The children are more open now. They seem lively and happy. Unlike in the past, they have started socialising and sharing their trek experience. It also motivates other special friends to get on board for the next trip. Their confidence and enthusiasm is at its peak. Now they are not shy and anxious in their daily lives and are confident interacting with public.
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