Governor of Telangana Dr. Tamilisai Soundararajan to launch Mindscapes, a Coffee Table Book on Art by Children with Special Needs. Inspired by the Meraki a Talent show in which children from all over the country participated. The book contains art works, essays and poems by special children from all over the world.
It could probably be the only book in the world that explores heartfelt stories of special children expressed in myriad ways by themselves
It is brought out by Margika Foundation, a Hyderabad and US-based NGO. It is founded by Neena Rao, a Maharashtrian who is married to a Telugu man and lives in India and the USA is a mother of a boy with Aspergers (a developmental disorder affecting the ability to effectively socialise and communicate). He inspired her to give up her career as an academic and development professional to create Margika - a Network for Training & Capacity Building for Better Care of Children with Special Needs.
Art and creativity are patent healing tools for special needs children, says Dr. Neena Rao.
The highest spiritual leader and former head of state of Tibet the Dalai Lama wrote a Foreward to the book. Children with special needs are often talented and intelligent in every specific way. The book Mindspaces by Dr. Neena Rao celebrates the insights and artistic skills and heartfelt stories of such children, His Holiness The Dalai Lama wrote in the foreword.
Art is a powerful tool in healing and growth, writes Dr. Matcheri Keshavan, at Harvard Medical School in another foreword. Besides the Foreward, he also wrote an article 'How does the brain make art?'.
Dr. Shashi Tharoor, MP; Aamir khan, Actor; Ms Shanta Sinha, Former Chairperson, National Commission for Protection of Child Rights and several other highly accomplished and distinguished personnel have given their testimonies to the book.
The 250 pages hardbound book printed at Pragati Press in Hyderabad features a treasure of art pieces and other talents by children with special needs and the world will get to hear these stories in their voices. Along with every art piece, there are verses regarding the child’s feelings about the work they have created or how they feel about that particular talent. The majority of these children are from rural government schools and thus, belong to the most socially and economically disadvantaged group of society.
This book, Mindscapes, explores the honest, heartfelt stories of children and young adults with special needs, through a sincere expression of ideas. And entries include a variety of artistic mediums; poetry, paintings, sketches, stories etc. Mindscapes provide individuals with special needs a showcase of their hidden potential, helping them to connect with professional artists in the mainstream and pursue their artistic endeavours.
One poem by Ms. Afroze Fatima as follows touches every heart
When there was a lack of colours
I painted with my soul.......
This is a rare platform, a platform for special children and young adults, which I strongly believe will improve these children's faith in their capabilities, and generate joy amongst themselves and their families. The objective is to offer help, guide, and encourage them in the long run, adding more meaning to the cause that Margika believes in, says Dr Neena Rao, an NRI, CEO and Founder of Magarika, an India and USA-based NGO for children with Special Needs, believes in looking at individual identities for their personalities, traits, talents, and strengths.
The print run of the book is 5000. It costs Rs 2950/-. The proceeds of the book will go towards the training of autistic related subjects.
The aim of organizing Meraki for children with special needs and creating a Coffee Table Book was to create a safe space that is:
a) free from judgement,
b) where they are respected and celebrated for being themselves
c)And the world gets to hear these children’s stories in their voices
Margika works towards mental health awareness, inclusive education, and other services directed toward ‘special-needs children. Margika works towards creating an environment of multi-pronged care for those with mental and developmental disorders in India. To transform the lives of those afflicted - from one of simply surviving, to leading lives to their full potential, and thriving! Her mission is to bring cutting-edge knowledge and practices from all over the world into India and thereby contribute to transforming the lives of those afflicted with mental and developmental disorders. Neena Rao was recently conferred the ‘Top 100 Healthcare Leaders’ award by IFAH - International Forum for Advancement in Healthcare.
Dr Neena is the author of several books.
The book is the outcome of an initiative called Meraki, a virtual talent show of special needs children rolled out during the Pandemic by Margika. Meraki is a Greek word for something done with creativity, effort and a lot of love to reveal the essence. It had received an overwhelming response. During Covid first wave Margika reached out to 8000 parents of children with special needs from the poorest strata of India through mobile phones. The Talent shows by Margika engaging with special children from India, North America, and Europe are a product of this Mobile Phone Outreach Intervention.
On witnessing their talent, we were inspired to compile their creative, expressive contributions into this coffee table book under the title "Mindscapes". This book offers a window into the world of these children. We hope that this compilation will help alter how we perceive individuals with special needs and their world and appreciate the strength and love that the families constantly exhibit while supporting their loved ones, shared Dr Neena.
Margika was formed to bridge the gaping holes and wide gaps It is a network for training and capacity building. It includes diverse stakeholders such as; peers, family members, other caregivers, school teachers, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and paraprofessionals from the grassroots to the top; from the most resourceful to the poorest of the poor, and from rural to urban. It is powered by a Hyderabad-based Software Company called Value Labs.
Some of its initiatives of Margika are to train and build capacities of Special Educators, Mainstream School Teachers, and Parents and families to enable true participation of “Children with Developmental, Mental, and Intellectual Challenges in the learning process rather than merely being placed in schools.”
It sensitizes and creates awareness programmes for key functionaries of the Central, State, District and Panchayat levels key functionaries related with Disabilities sector and Education Sector.
It screens school-going children for learning disabilities and training of teachers in Universal Design for learning.
It works on International Collaborations for Virtual Talents Shows, Talk Series, Panel Discussions, Webinars for Special needs Children and their Families.
Its vision is to ensure the assimilation of those afflicted with Developmental and Mental Health Challenges into mainstream society by transforming their lives from simply surviving to truly thriving! Its mission is to provide help to children facing emotional and academic challenges due to being gifted differently.
Margika has eminent psychiatrists and researchers like Dr. MatcheriKeshavan (Stanley
Cobb Chair, Harvard University), Dr. Rajiv Tandon ( Michigan State University), and
Development Professionals, like Mr Manoj Kumar ( CEO-Naandi Foundation, Shailaja Rao
(Special Educator, NIMH Hyderabad) and Physicians and Dr. Anupama Reddy,
( Pediatrician and Community Worker, Hyderabad), Mr. Arjun Rao ( CEO& Founder
Valuelabs Inc) on its Advisory Board for guidance.
For content development and training delivery, Margika collaborates with reputed organizations
1. Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD), University of Florida
2. British Indian Psychiatrists Association
3. Florida Family Leaders network
4. University of South Florida, Public Health Department
5. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Secunderabad, India
6. National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, India
Margika also has a state of the art Digital Platform for Online Training that has been developed by Value Labs LLP, Hyderabad, Telangana, a company with operations across the Globe.