Veruschka Dias, a dearly beloved sister, had several unique abilities one of them being Autism. She was affectionate, full of life, could pick up a tune in seconds and was an insatiable foodie especially when it came to her favourite dishes. Growing up, she went to different special schools in Mumbai where under the training of some truly dedicated occupational therapists, special educators and speech therapists, we were able to hone her abilities. However, after the age of 16, owing to the lack of institutional facilities for individuals like her, the responsibility to keep her engaged and to improve her skills fell squarely on her family. She was lovingly looked after and cared for by her sister and parents who ensured that she always got the best. Sadly, Veruschka passed away in May 2015 at the age of 26.
Leela Ammachy (Mariamma Thomas), a dearly beloved aunt, uniquely abled with Down syndrome, loved kids, could talk nineteen to the dozen and was fascinated by books. She was a very sociable, endearing and loving person. Born and brought up in Kerala, at a time when there was little or no information about her condition, her parents – both medical professionals, ensured that she was well cared for and nurtured to be as independent as possible, within the confines of her home. After their passing, she was lovingly looked after and cared for by her brother and his family until her demise in September 2010 at the age of 68.
It was around a year ago that Tatyana, a neurobiologist and Christina, a financial professional set out with an idea and a purpose – to help individuals with developmental disabilities. Their personal experiences of caring for a sister with Autism and an aunt with Down syndrome respectively not only affirmed their friendship but also evoked in them a deep-seated responsibility to help other individuals with developmental disabilities. As a family missing the presence of Veruschka in their lives and with the pillar of support in Christina, the idea of the Foundation took birth.
- The Cook for Change Challenge – an annual cooking competition to be held in Mumbai, wherein individuals with developmental disabilities aged 16 and above, will be invited to participate and showcase their culinary talents. We hope to liaise with professional chefs and provide a platform for the winners of these competitions to secure training or apprenticeships in this field.
- The Mariamma Thomas Award of Empowerment – to financially support individuals with developmental disabilities with fees for education, therapy and other daily living needs.
- The Veruschka Foundation Conclave – bringing together eminent scientists, researchers and medical practitioners working in the field of developmental disabilities to talk about the latest advances, research findings and therapies.
- Organise fund raising events to raise awareness and ensure the objectives of The Veruschka Foundation are met at all times.
- Organising conferences, seminars and workshops for special educators, parents, care givers and other interested persons leading to better care, treatment and understanding of the individuals with developmental disabilities.
- Organise exhibitions, fairs and other social activities for individuals with developmental disabilities aged 16 and above
- Organise competitions to showcase their skills and talents in other fields like Performing Arts, Painting, Crafts and Handiwork.
- Collaborate with local and international organisations to develop accredited training programs and apprenticeships for individuals with developmental disabilities.
- Collaborate with local businesses to employ individuals with developmental disabilities that have relevant qualifications and skills, to work and earn a living.
- Set up a scholarship for young graduates to earn a degree in Special needs care, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy with the clause to return to their country of residence following their studies.
- Assess scalability of the activities of the Foundation to other parts of India.
All of the above and other activities deemed necessary will be undertaken in a manner that complements the extraordinary work that is already being done by NGOs, special schools and sheltered workshops operating in Mumbai and other cities and wherever necessary collaborating with them to uphold our Vision.