The experience of Laughter Yoga with mentally challenged children at Rotary Paul Harris School, Indore, India has touched the core of our hearts and has given us the fulfillment of bringing cheer in the lives of sweet little kids.
While returning from my office one evening, I took a slightly different route to avoid heavy traffic. On the way, I discovered Rotary Paul Harris School for the mentally challenged children. Next day, I visited the school. There I met Rotarian Radheyshyam Maheshwari.
He told me that it is very challenging to provide education to children with mental challenge. In addition, they impart vocational training and training for the daily needs of the children. This requires a lot of patience and devotion because each child needs individual attention. They have 60 students but the average daily attendance is only 50-60 percent. These students are taken care by specially trained staff. They also engage them in sports, music and extra-curricular activities.
It was in the year 1964 that Rotary Club of Indore started this school. After passing through initial teething problems, the school is now on a better footing. It is one of the finest institutes of its type in the Malwa region of Central India.
I shared the concept of Laughter Yoga with him briefly. His response was very positive and we fixed a day and time for our first laughter session with the special kids. The kids responded to our first session with great enthusiasm and energy. We were taken by surprise by the positivity generated by the affirmation VeryGoodVeryGoodYay. They loved milkshake laughter, mobile laughter, argument laughter and hearty laughter. But we realized that they could not clap in rhythm, chant hohohahaha or follow the deep breathing exercises.
I had along discussion with my wife Radhika, who is also a Certified Laughter Yoga Teacher, in the matter. We decided to focus initially on simple clapping, VGVGY and the laughter exercises which the kids liked. Radhika worked hard with the kids on Tuesday mornings week after week and gradually the kids started picking up. A weekly session on Laughter Yoga was included in their time table. Mrs Neeti Billore, the Principal, and her team of Teachers were always with us during the sessions. On the occasion of New Year, we visited the school with members of Suniket Laughter Club, Indore and shared sweets with them.
The school authorities told us that they propose to showcase the progress in laughter sessions in front of the parents of the kids and members of Rotary Club during their Annual Day celebrations. The kids were all prepared for the event and laughed coherently to the surprise of all present. We felt satisfied as our efforts had borne fruits. Everyone could sense how close the kids felt to us. The effect of joy cocktail was more than evident on the faces of the kids.
On the annual day, we also conducted a laughter session for the families of Rotary Club members which was appreciated by one and all. Prior to that, we had given a presentation of Laughter Yoga in one of their club meetings. Looking to the good effect that laughter is having on the emotional well-being of the kids, we propose to continue with our sessions in the school. The warm welcome that is accorded to us by the kids every time we visit is too valuable for us to loose. We would like to continue to work with them to completely erase the mental and emotional scars and deprivation of their early childhood. It would be really fulfilling if their lives get the missing rhythm through hohohahaha and verygoodverygoodyay.
Jagat Singh Bisht