Historic day for HEAL as Institute for Visually Challenged welcomes first children

Phanendra Chunduri Institute for the Visually Challenged, HEAL Paradise Village

HEAL Paradise Village reached a significant milestone recently with the arrival of the first children at the Phanendra Chunduri Institute for the Visually Challenged.

The building, kindly donated by Dr Dhanumjaya Rao, Mrs Vijaya and Miss Jyothi Chunduri, from Birmingham, England, in memory of the Chunduris’ late son, was officially opened back in January, but this was the first time children were welcomed into the classrooms.

Phanendra Chunduri Institute for the Visually Challenged, HEAL Paradise Village

More than 30 blind or partially-sighted children have been identified in the region and 12 of these were invited, along with family members, to try out the new facility.

Members of the Chunduri family and some of the children themselves took part in a ribbon-cutting and puja ceremony as the classrooms were opened up for the first time and the children were able to try out some of the educational equipment provided for their needs.

Phanendra Chunduri Institute for the Visually Challenged, HEAL Paradise Village

The first children to attend the Phanendra Chunduri Institute for the Visually Challenged cut the classroom ribbon, watched by Dr Dhanumjaya Rao Chunduri and family

In an emotional speech given to families, children and staff, Jyothi Chunduri, from Harbourne, Birmingham, said: “This facility will prove that these children, and all blind children, can achieve their dreams just like a sighted person.”

Her uncle, Krishnababu Chunduri, from Fort Worth, Texas, who has donated the Ramaseshamma & Kotaiah Chunduri Skills Development Centre next door to the Institute, translated her speech from English into Telugu and added further words of encouragement to the assembled children that a brighter future awaited them thanks to HEAL.

Phanendra Chunduri Institute for the Visually Challenged, HEAL Paradise Village

UK volunteers Colin Charlton and Jem King and staff spent time playing with the children, helping them to get the most out of their new learning tools, including braille alphabet cards, counting toys and puzzles.

“It was an honour to spend time with these wonderful children and a very emotional occasion,” said HEAL UK communications director Jem.

“The children were so full of fun and so quick to learn new skills, it was amazing. This facility will offer so much in terms of education and allow them to blossom like the other children already living at Paradise Village.

Phanendra Chunduri Institute for the Visually Challenged, HEAL Paradise Village

“Even in such a short space of time in the classroom, these children demonstrated a great propensity for learning and I can’t wait for them all to come back and get stuck into lessons full-time here at the Institute.

“I was blown away by how quickly they picked things up and I am sure they will get so much out of the learning space here, which will eventually include sensory gardens, a computer room and a braille/digital library.

“They will also be able to take advantage of new technology, such as tablets with the ability to download apps containing hundreds of books and stories. We have already started identifying stories which will interest and stimulate them in their new learning environment.

Phanendra Chunduri Institute for the Visually Challenged, HEAL Paradise Village

“Our Institute organiser, Abraham, has been busy identifying children with little or no sight and registering them for a place here. The aim eventually is to offer space for 100 visually challenged kids and I know our HEAL children are looking forward to making them all feel at home here at Paradise.

“I saw Jyothi become emotional during the speeches and one of the most inspiring parts of this story is that the Chunduri’s sponsorship of this Institute arose out of the personal tragedy of the loss of a loved one.

“It just goes to show that it is possible to turn such a terrible event as the death of a son into a life-changing experience for hundreds of often overlooked young people and I know Dr Chunduri and his family will draw tremendous comfort from that knowledge.”