Founder of Lebenshilfe in Vizag, Dr. T Saraswathi Devi, passed away in Vizag on Saturday at the age of 73. Lebenshilfe is an organisation for mentally challenged which provides mental health care.
In German, ‘Leben’ means life and ‘Hilfe’ means help. So when Dr. Saraswathi Devi completed her Special Education from the US, she quickly took on the next step as an intensive trainee in the parent organization of Lebenshilfe. In 1980, she opened the center in Vizag, and even today, Lebenshilfe and Dr. Saraswathi are dedicated to the cause of people with intellectual disabilities.
Once, in an interview with Yo! Vizag, Saraswathi Devi said, “I was seventeen when I saw a thin woman carrying a baby and begging. I uncovered the baby’s face to see that the child didn’t look normal. Moreover, the mother told me that the baby wasn’t hers, she had simply borrowed it for begging. The incident affected me and formed the turning point from which other things were to follow.”
Located behind the Deccan Chronicle, today Lebenshilfe is home to over 400 children who come here to play, learn and live. A staff of over 100 people manages the premises and keep the operations moving smoothly. And Dr. Saraswathi, unassuming and dynamic has managed it all with ease.
The biggest challenges she has faced while providing mental health care are funding and awareness. “While the awareness has improved, still people need to know about the conditions”, she said. She also spoke about the difference in economic backgrounds and of how affluent parents are not willing to send their wards to the same school as poor children. “But the purpose of Lebenshilfe is to reach out to people who cannot afford treatment or cure. We provide everything for free”, she mentioned. Parents wait in the school premises to feed their children. For them, this school is the perfect abode of both learning and living.
26 Lawsons Bay, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh – 530017
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