written by Ingrid ten Hoopen, Mukti volunteer – 

“Ma….ma…! Pa…pa…!” Rutuja would call as she grabbed onto my arm with the plea of her heart and tears rolling down her face. In her first few months at Mukti, Rutuja cried a lot and could continually be heard asking for her parents. She was confused and didn’t understand why she was now at Mukti.

Rutuja has an intellectual disability and her speech is also delayed. The words that she does say are very difficult to understand. Last year, one sad and tragic day arose when her hand signals and cries for help to her neighbours went unheeded.

Rutuja and her brother were outside playing when the young boy slipped and fell into a barrel of water. Rutuja scrambled to help her brother but was unable to get him out so she raced to get help from her neighbours. Sadly, they didn’t understand her pleas and cries so they did not follow her to aid her brother. As a result, Rutuja’s younger brother drowned.

In June 2015, Rutuja’s parents, who are poor farm labourers, brought her to Mukti for shelter and education.

They feared that she might find herself in a dangerous situation if she accompanied them to work or stayed at home alone. They worked hard to feed and support the family, only earning a meagre income. They brought her to Mukti with the confidence that their special needs daughter would be kept safe from harm and be able to attend the Special Needs School.

Rutuja is now one of the ‘Violet Flower Family’ girls. It took a long time to adjust to the new environment that has become her home.

Her parents regularly come to Mukti to visit. At first, Rutuja found the visits and the periods after visitations quite traumatic, but now she has a better understanding and accepts that although the visits are temporary, her parents will return for another one soon.

She is now happy and settled in the Violet family, where she enjoys playing with her many friends. At the Mukti Special Needs School, Rutuja is grouped with the younger students. She has a love for learning Marathi (Indian language spoken at Mukti) and can read and write Marathi numbers to twenty. She has made a good start on learning to write letters.

Rutuja loves to help others and often initiates help without being asked. At lunchtimes and the end of the school day, Rutuja has made it her job to walk one of the blind girls home. She isn’t at all happy if one of the girls takes this on.

Now when she calls out, “Mama, Papa,” she is letting me know that they are going to visit. Her tears now overflow with joy as she takes hold of my hand and leads me to them.

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