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Dattapur Shelter: One Year On

OVER THE last year, Women In Need's shelter for destitute women at Dattapur, Wardha, has proven invaluable in the charity's quest to help this most vulnerable group women.

The majority of ladies found on the streets, are affected by mental illness and require specialised care to address the many complex problems that accompany psychotic, depressive and schizophrenic conditions.

Such individuals require supervised structure to each day, as well as the right medication. Many arrive at the shelter in a severe state of neglect, with no concept of time, routine or personal hygiene, and need to relearn basic tasks such as getting up at a particular time, bathing and cooking.

WIN also encourages its sheltered ladies to acquire productive new skills:

Reading and writing - Even if illiterate, a woman can still learn the basics, enabling her to read signs such as bus destinations and shops.

Basic tailoring - Simple running stitch is taught for operating a sewing machine. Some may be able to establish a tailoring business later on in their rehabilitation. Quite often financial independence encourages family acceptance.

Spinning - Dattapur has a tradition of cotton growing, spinning and weaving, originating from Mahatma Gandhi's concept of self-sufficiency. WIN's patients are employed by Dattapur to pick and spin cotton during October and November and are able to generate a small income.

Making doormats - Rush matting is very popular, cheap to produce and an easy skill to learn. This activity is enabling a significant number of women to earn whilst staying at WIN's shelters in Wardha and Nagpur.

Cultivating vegetables - The shelter has an adjoining one-acre of land, where ladies can cultivate their own organic crops. They are able to enjoy the satisfaction of seeing vegetables mature, and keeping physically active brings a sense of mental wellbeing.

There is of course the added benefit of eating the produce!

Music therapy - Women In Need is fortunate to have the support of Mrs Sandhya Deshmukh, principal of a local music academy. Sandhya has used her talents extensively in music therapy, specifically helping individuals with psychiatric disorders.

A significant number of women have difficulty communicating, often requiring constant persuasion to talk. Through the medium of music (classical songs and hymns), we have seen amazing results.

Those reluctant to talk, sing with confidence and in unison with other ladies. They display obvious pleasure at Sandhya's visits and have been practicing for a concert in October at Wardha. Public events like this also increases the women's self-confidence.

Local donations - Since opening in September 2009, regular donations of food and clothing have been given to the charity's ladies at the shelter. Religious festivals, weddings and funerals often require substantial amounts of catering, and many of the items on the menu are sumptuous and costly. Many have gained pleasure or solace in sharing the gifts with our women.

Photos: 1. Sandhya Deshmukh's music therapy 2. Cultivating vegetables 3. Hand-made doormats 4 & 5. Birthday celebrations and local donations shared with sheltered ladies

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