Perhaps one of the most audible references to learning disabilities (at least in the recent past) in Hollywood movies came from how the demigod Percy struggles to lead a normal high-schooler’s life. The movie “Percy Jackson & the Olympians” in 2010 explains the demigod’s disability as his brain being hardwired to read Greek not English.

It sounded too simplistic and laughable at the time. But one day at CIMR, Trivandrum will tell us how much of a truth that is. Deliberate or inadvertent, the movie makers told one of the loudest secrets of learning disorders. People enduring the condition are not disabled, they are really abled for things that are not statistically normal.

However, our labour force factories (I mean the educational system) that churns employable servants is not equipped to provide opportunities that it cannot “train” for gainful employment. So unfortunately, we have relegated them to the world of disabled. Even population census in the country I live in (India) categorizes this as a disability. A bulk of the regulation through the Persons with Disability (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 focuses on providing frameworks and resources for managing the disability.

The real difference I saw with CIMR is that its founder, Father Felix considers this approach useless. His vision for individuals with learning and other psychological disorders is to use a unique method of education that he calls as “The Three Cs Concept” to make them independent. He believes they should be given the opportunity to acquire life skills that helps them provide for themselves and their dependents like the rest of us aspire to do. More importantly he believes they should be given the means to integrate into the society of the statistical averages in way in which they retain their advantages while living in a way in which we average folks are capable of understanding. For the untrained eye, his strict demeanour and commanding approach to his differently abled students might be shocking. But on closer scrutiny, it will become clear that it is nothing but another way to express that the difference in treatment such individuals need is not through sympathy, but through empowerment. Thanks to his effort, people who want to donate to top NGOs in India have contributed in the past to his efforts in Trivandrum.

CIMR believes that holistic education is not limited to success in academics defined by curriculums. The true education happens while nurturing creativity, instilling competitive spirit, developing monetizable vocational skills and building life skills that are needed to interact with the community at large. To achieve this, the students there are trained in the following:

  • Sports: CIMR takes its sports seriously. It has 12 wards in its rolls who have participated in Paralympics representing the country. There is a well-equipped indoor stadium. Even outdoor sports like golf and cricket are taught and encouraged here.
  • Arts: It is not just another hour of free time for the faculty here at CIMR. Art is taken seriously. There are award winning fine-art performers in classical music and dance who can easily put my trained skills to shame. After 6 years of music class at school, I was only sad that I did not have some free time in a week where I can shout at the top of my voice without reprimand. But the students here simply excel at what they pursue.
  • Automobile Mechanism: It is simply a wonder when they can pull apart a functioning car down to its elemental components and put them all together in a matter of a couple of days. A “Mentally Capable” individual like me cannot not replace my spare tyre and call for help when I have a flat one.
  • Agriculture Training: With about 40 acres at disposal, CIMR has used it to train the wards in agricultural skills. A variety of both food and cash crops are reared by the students in this parcel of land.
  • Horse Riding: They fondly breed a couple of horses donated to them by Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam who once marvelled at their curiosity when they visited him at the Rashtrapathy Bhavan in New Delhi. Today there are a bunch of skilled riders who not only enjoy the wind in their face, but also take care of the animals themselves.

I cannot think of other schools that can have this level of education in the regular curriculum. I may even go out on a limb and claim that students from CIMR may be in some ways more capable of leading a life in this society than most students from leading educational institutes for the regular minds. CIMR has created an avenue for its students to integrate back into the society. But more importantly, they have empowered them well enough to add value to the society economically, culturally, and intellectually. Now that I think is using education to create the tomorrow, we all want to live in.

They have sustained all of this based on donations from all over India who donate to NGO in Kerala and donors from abroad who have had the heart to donate to NGOs in India. Today, they are seeking donation from patrons and donors across the world who are interested in donating for the differently abled and for charities aimed at learning disabilities. You can visit them here if you would like to donate.