The hostel for the Mentally Disabled – A Big Challenge

'ASTITVA' started a hostel for the mentally retarded in the year 1992. The entire second floor of the Institute admeasuring 8500 square feet is earmarked for the hostel. There are two separate wings, one for the male in-mates and the other for female in-mates numbering 36 and 19 respectively. Cots, mattresses, bed sheets, pillows, blankets, cupboards are allotted to each in-mate, while fans, tubelights, T.V., dining hall, provision for hot water, washing of clothes etc., are the common amenities available to all. In the total floor space of 8500 square feet, a kitchen has been specially provided for.

'ASTITVA' has assumed to itself the responsibility of the in-mates all their life. Each in-mate is a class by himself/herself requiring the rectors to maintain a separate file in respect of each in-mate stipulating therein his/her food habits, nature of illness, allergies etc. Although the parents/guardians are required to pay a certain sum of money in respect of their children/wards everymonth, the Institute cannot afford to neglect the in-mate on account of non-payment or delayed payment by parents/guardians. A doctor pays regular visits to the hostel every Monday and Thursday and administers treatment to in-mates for minor illnesses while in case of serious illnesses the in-mates are referred to the hospital according to the recommendations of the doctor.
As the in-mates are all mentally retarded, the rectors are required to ensure the proper intake of food by them so that they do not consume inordinately excessive or less. Likewise, the medical treatment as recommended by the doctor is required to be administered in proper dosage and at stipulated time.
There are a number of cases where the in-mates do not get sound sleep, in that, they wake up at the slightest movement anywhere around. Rectors are required to ensure that all inmates go to bed before 10:30 p.m. every day. Some in-mates also demonstrate the unruly behaviour by trying to engage in scuffles with the fellow in-mates. Sexual disturbances are also required to be controlled ensuring that the male in-mates do not mingle with female in-mates nor do they indulge in self-satisfying sex exercises.
'ASTITVA' has set a practice that the in-mates should be taken home by their parents/guardians during summer vacation and also during Diwali vacation falling in autumn so that they feel that they are a part of the family and their sense of belonging increases. However, there are a few parents who do not wish to take their wards home due to their personal difficulties. Such inmates are to be retained in the hostel even during vacation requiring us to provide them food and all other amenities which causes a tremendous strain on the administration besides a sense of being neglected by parents among such inmates.

Unlike other faculties, hostel for the mentally retarded is an ongoing activity without any holiday whatever.

Well laid out administrative/functionary setup

'ASTITVA' has two rectors attached to the hostel and a staff of six caretakers, four male members and two female members. The rectors as well as the caretakers are required to stay in the hostel as the hostel is an ongoing uninterrupted activity requiring their attention at any hour of the day. Due to the peculiar nature of the functioning of the hostel a kitchen is obviously an ongoing activity which is handled by three female members reporting to the rectors.
The parents/guardians have to enter into an agreement with 'ASTITVA' at the time of admitting their children/wards into the hostel whereby they undertake to remit a fixed sum to 'ASTITVA' for food, maintenance and the medical treatment of their children/wards.

Untiring efforts with missionary zeal

Rectors and his team of caretakers have no fixed hours of work as the in-mates in the hostel require their attention anytime of the day. For them, it is more of a mission than duty. They cannot afford to be clock watchers for any lapse on their part is likely to bring disrepute to the Institute besides endangering the well-being of the in-mates.
As there are 55 in-mates in the hostel, cleaniness assumes great importance. Bathing, washing of clothes, cooking etc., have to be executed in a meticulous way ensuring cleanliness and hygienic atmosphere all over leaving no room for any water born diseases. An aqua-guard has been provided in the hostel so that the in-mates get bacteria free water to drink.
In order that the power failure should not throw the working of the hostel haywire, a generator of 4 KVA capacity is installed to ensure uninterrupted working of the washing machines, aqua-guard, water-cooler, refrigerator etc.
Although the in-mates are all mentally retarded, 'ASTITVA' does not consider them as a burden and therefore 'ASTITVA' is in the constant pursuit of achieving their overall development besides making their life as comfortable as possible rather than just maintaining them. Towards the end, we provide them facilities for games like cricket, football, badminton etc. We organise picnics for these in-mates twice a year. They are also taken to participate in the tournaments organised at the district/state and national levels, be it sports, cultural programmes, drawing competitions, music, group events etc. In order that they do not nurture the feeling of inferiority complex their birthdays are celebrated at the cost of 'ASTITVA' with a pomp and show. We do invite the respective parents to attend the birthday celebrations which adds to the joy of the hostel in-mates.

Home away from home - A dream comes true

In a totally hygienic atmosphere the in-mates of the hostel lead a very joyous and comfortable life without an iota of inferiority complex. Those of the in-mates who can do the monotonous work in the workshop run by 'ASTITVA' are required to work depending upon their capability, level of understanding and tenacity which fetches them a certain sum of money for the work performed. Though such amounts are too meagre they create a sense of satisfaction and also confidence that they are very much an important part of the society like normal beings.
Hostel is more than a home for the in-mates as it provides them sufficient opportunity to mingle with others the opportunity which they would not get if they live with their parents. Better community living techniques also inspires them into leading a normal life and from this point of view, it is a true home away from home. Curiously, there are a few in-mates who are not willing to stay with their parents for the entire summer vacation or Diwali vacation and return to the hostel within 3-4 days after they are taken away. Undoubtedly, this causes a tremendous strain on the administration but the staff of the hostel faces this challenge with a missionary zeal.