By OUR STAFF REPORTER
DEHRADUN, 21 Oct: Dehradun-based NGO, the Latika Roy Foundation (LRF), participated today in Virasat, the annual heritage festival, with a street play to raise awareness on the need for a clean, ‘green’ Diwali. The play was performed by children from the “Latika Vihar Leadership Council”. Latika Vihar, the first project of the Foundation, which turns 25 this year, is a revolutionary model for community inclusivity, where children of all socio-economic backgrounds and physical abilities are encouraged to participate. The Leadership Council is a new initiative designed to encourage its young members to bring about positive change. An LRF representative said, “Every programme has room to grow, and no one knows that better than those who participate in the activities and talk to one another every day. This council gives children the opportunity to think about what they want to change, and how to change it, with some guidance. It is a platform for ‘experts by experience’ to take charge of issues that adults may miss, with an ability to influence that adults often lack.” The ‘nukkad natak’ incorporated rhymes and prose in, both, Hindi and English to convey the message that Diwali can be celebrated in a way that honours tradition without impacting human health and the environment. It suggested decorating homes with rangoli and flowers, lighting diyas, singing, dancing and eating mithai and other pakwan. It called attention to the toxic effects of firecrackers through rhymes like ‘Yeh Anaar Karega Bimaar’, ‘Roko Yeh Bamb Yah Hamey Karo Khatam’, and ‘Panch Minute ka Mazaa, Zindagi Bhar ki Sazaa’. Past initiatives of the Latika Vihar Leadership Council include a Swachhta Abhiyan, as part of which Council members clean their premises. In August, this year, they cleaned the area around the Forest Research Institute (FRI) gate and on Brandise Road and the area outside Suvidha Supermarket. They now propose to extend the drive to their neighbourhood in Vasant Vihar. The Council has also carried out activities to increase the inclusion of the Foundation’s disabled children, who, with their families, form the majority of people that the organisation works with. The Latika Roy Foundation is recognised as one of India’s foremost nonprofit experts on disability- related issues among children from birth to adulthood, providing integrated services at low or no cost. These emerge from its rights-based, family- centred approach and are underpinned by its emphasis on child protection, as disabled children are statistically far more vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse than their abled peers. The Foundation’s services include assessments, therapy, early intervention, special education, family therapy and counselling, home management, training for parents, and assistance with access to legal entitlements such as Disability Certificates, income tax rebates, travel concessions and Aadhar cards.