A Brushstroke of Unity on Independence Day: Celebrating a More Just and Inclusive World
By Dr. Malay Kanti Dey and Bratati Choudhury, parents, founders – Chinsurah Sense Society, national SRV leaders
A groundbreaking model for the inclusion of devalued individuals, including those with disabilities, that is founded on Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger’s Social Role Valorization (SRV) entails being in typical places, with typical people, doing typical things, in typical ways.
This model, championed by Keystone Institute India, led by Betsy Neuville, transcends conventional approaches to inclusion, emphasizing not only the physical presence of individuals but also their active participation in everyday activities within mainstream environments. It serves as a guiding principle to foster genuine integration and break down societal barriers that often marginalize devalued people. It challenges us to reconsider and redefine our perceptions, encouraging a more comprehensive and compassionate approach to building a society where every individual can thrive and contribute in ways that are both typical and extraordinary.
In the spirit of this profound understanding, Chinsurah Sense Society, in collaboration with a local swimming club, hosted a heartwarming Sit-n-Draw event on Independence Day, bringing together children with autism and neuro-typical children for a day of creativity and camaraderie. Independence Day, a day that symbolizes freedom and unity, was celebrated with a unique blend of colors and inclusivity in the heart of Chinsurah. The Chinsurah Sense Society, known for its commitment to inclusivity and support for individuals with autism, joined hands with the Garbati Amra Koyekjon swimming club to organize a Sit-n-Draw event that left an indelible mark on the canvas of community spirit.
The event held on August 15, 2023 welcomed children of all abilities, creating a space where creativity knows no bounds. What made this event truly special was the collaboration between children with autism and their neuro-typical peers, fostering an environment where differences melted away in the joy of artistic expression.
Inclusion, a multidimensional phenomenon, operates through various processes, navigating through different “pockets of exclusions.” The beauty lies in the understanding that the entire process is “inclusion”—devoid of directional preferences.
Years ago, we initiated a Sit-n-Draw program labeled “inclusive” within the walls of our atypical house, specifically designed for autistic children. Inviting friends and relatives, we witnessed the genesis of an inclusion process as they joined with their children. As the initiative gained momentum, a transformative collaboration emerged with a local swimming club. Transitioning to their complex, equipped with a playground—a typical place—the inclusivity of the Sit-n-Draw program reached new heights. The evolution continued as we organized inclusive Sit-n-Draw sessions at the swimming club. Integration became the norm, with a few children from the club seamlessly joining the artistic endeavors. In a remarkable shift, the swimming club now spearheads the Sit-n-Draw program for all children, eliminating the need for the “inclusive” label.
Beyond the original participants, the impact resonates with diverse dimensions of the community. Less privileged children, retired individuals, housewives rediscovering their artistic flair, and even revered personalities accustomed to distant admiration, all enthusiastically participate. Many more dimensions remain unspoken but deeply felt. Witnessing this ongoing process of inclusion is an immense joy. It’s a testament to the fact that the journey of inclusion is not just about breaking barriers; it’s about creating a space where everyone, regardless of background or ability, can express themselves through art and experience the true colors of freedom.
The vibrant strokes of color on paper reflect the diversity and unity that defines the community. Children guided by their creativity and enthusiasm, created artworks that spoke volumes about the power of inclusivity. It was more than just a drawing; it was a testimony to the shared joy that comes from breaking down barriers and celebrating each other’s strengths.
The success of the event was not just measured by the artworks displayed but by the smiles, laughter, and friendships that blossomed throughout the day. Parents, volunteers, and participants alike left with a sense of accomplishment, knowing they had contributed to an event that transcended societal norms.
As we reflect on this memorable day, it serves as a reminder that inclusivity is not just a concept; it is a lived experience that enriches our lives and strengthens the bonds within our community. The Sit-n-Draw event organized by Chinsurah Sense Society and Garbati Amra Koyekjon swimming club was more than an art activity; it was a celebration of unity, diversity, and the true spirit of Independence. It beautifully embodies the spirit of Keystone’s mission to promote inclusivity and community engagement. In the words of Betsy Neuville, Director of Keystone Institute India: “Yes! We learn to be together by… being together.”
In the words of Secretary, Chinsurah Sense Society, “We believe that every stroke on the canvas represents a step toward a more inclusive society. This event was a testament to the fact that, irrespective of our differences, when we come together, we create something beautiful.” This Independence Day, Chinsurah Sense Society and Garbati Amra Koyekjon swimming club proved that the true colors of freedom are not just red, white, and green but a spectrum that embraces every hue.