Our visit to SAA, Pune (Dhayari centre)

June 2011:

A somewhat long but quite simple route took us through Pune, passing through the Racecourse area, Cantonment, to Swar Gate and on to Sinhgad road.

At the entrance to the centre.

A few landmarks and a T crossing later, we were in Dhayari, driving through a peaceful lane that leads to the Kamalini Kruti Bhawan.

This is where the Schizophrenia Awareness Association has its centre – quiet, well laid out, calm, and with a gentle hum of well-being infusing all activity and activity areas. We were warmly received by Amrit Bakhshy (President, SAA) who is himself a long term caregiver, and by members of the SAA team – Sarika Shinde (Centre-in-charge), Charuta Khamkar (Rehab co-ordinator & Counsellor), Anita Aivale (Administration assistant), Saili Deo (Trainee) and Saraswatibai (who made sure  we stayed hydrated, ate our food and had our chai).

Charuta (L) explains systems to Averil.

This centre is where Self Help Support Groups (SHSGs) of persons with schizophrenia and other mental disorders and SHSGs of their family caregivers meet, interact, engage in therapeutic, vocational, and recreational pursuits, attend knowledge and awareness events, air their views and share their problems, thoughts, feelings and perceptions.

The SHSG’s have been enabled by SAA under the program called ‘Ekalavya’. It is made clear by the SAA that this group work is not a substitute for professional care and diagnosis and medications are not discussed in the groups. (Read a piece written by Gurudatt Kundapurkar of SAA, distilling some of the thoughts and wisdom of caregivers that has emerged from these meetings.)

SAA has Day Care facilities for persons with schizophrenia and other mental disorders. There are about twenty care receivers enrolled in Day Care; they travel in the SAA bus and are engaged in multiple activities between 11am and 5pm at the centre, interacting with each other and with SAA team members. One such group we met was in the common activities room (also called the Yoga room), where an air of industry prevailed with artwork, embroidery and craftwork being the focus of the hour.

A care receiver's craftwork.

As we took a tour of the centre, thanks to Charuta who walked us around and patiently explained her work and the activity areas we visited, we were left with a strong impression of a calm atmosphere and positive energy. There is no sense of a hospital / medical centre ambience. The feeling one is left with, is that enormous caring is provided by a small team that understands the needs and requirements of care receivers, in a safe space with a regular, familiar feel to rooms, kitchen and common areas.

There’s a library, a computer room, a room to retreat into for someone who wishes to be away from the group for a while, a room for guests, a dining area where space has been utilised optimally, drop-down tables hinged to the wall. I recall having something similar in a small kitchen of mine years ago.

SAA Library

SAA Library

SAA has many programs that focus on the needs of caregivers and care receivers in the field of schizophrenia and other mental disorders. They are engaged in awareness building through their publications and use of media such as website and film, as well as youth outreach through schools and colleges. Their programs include SHG meetings, recreation & entertainment opportunities, therapeutic and rehabilitative activities, as well as trainings for caregivers. Other activities include trainings for volunteers and resource people which are organised in Pune and some other cities in Maharashtra, as well as engagements with medical practitioners to orient and sensitise them to the needs and requirements of caregivers and care receivers.

SAA-Ekalavya is a founder member of India’s apex body of caregivers, the All India Federation Of Mentally Ill (AIFMI) head quartered at Chennai.

(L-R) Averil Gomes, Sarika Shinde, Charuta Khamkar, Anita Aivale, Shikha Aleya, Amrit Kumar Bakhshy

We’d like to thank the SAA team for their generosity with time, energy and discussion, their openness and willingness to explore possibilities of working together to increase the network of awareness, information and resources.

Click here for a window glimpse into an afternoon in February 2013, spent with caregivers, care-receivers and a therapy dog team at the Scizophrenia Awareness Association (Pune).

(SAA – Vice-President – Gurudatt Kundapurkar’s piece distilling the collective wisdom of caregivers emerging from group work.)

For more information, visit their website

Contact details:
Schizophrenia Awareness Association
Kamalini Kruti Bhawan
14, Ganesh Nagar,
Dhayari Road
Pune 411041
Phone: 020-64700920/24391202
Email: saa.help@gmail.com

The SAA refers to a Caregiver as Shubhankar (Sanskrit term, the literal meaning of which is ‘a person who is dedicated to others’ welfare’.) A care receiver is referred to as Shubharthi (Sanskrit term, the literal meaning is ‘seeker of well-being’.)