Beauty in the Differently Abled

The Ashish Center seeks to work towards a society that views each person as a being of value and importance.  They work hard to make a difference in the lives of children with disabilities as well as their families. Through an integral approach of intervention, they work for the learning and growth of each child towards their God-given potential and assist their families to be effective facilitators in this process. The school helps to provide admission to all sections of society regardless of caste, creed, race, religion, economic and gender barriers, and provide up to 97% scholarship to needy students.

Ashish Focuses on the Differently Abled

Playing gamesAs a primary focus of our time in India, we had the opportunity to serve in the Ashish Center for the Differently Abled.   I love the statement, “differently abled,” because it says something profound about children born with a condition like autism.  It says they have different gifts, talents and abilities.  It says they have a God-given potential; fully valued and fully loved by their Father in heaven.   After spending a week at the center, I am convinced these children have, and can see, their own angels watching over them.

My time was spent primarily focused on Ansh.  I just fell in love with him from the moment I saw him.  Maybe it’s because he reminded me of a little Indian-version of my son when he was six.  His little glasses are what did me in!  His buck teeth only add to his charm with his endearing gentle nature and delightful presence.  Last week he attended summer camp at the Ashish Center, and he was priceless to watch.

His first activity was a cooking class. If he was older than six, he would have the opportunity to actually make his own sandwich, but for now he waits for his sandwich to be made. As he waits, he seems lost in his own world, shaking his hands in front of his face as a form of self-stimulation. Every now and then, he leans into the boy next to him, gets nose to nose, and makes eye contact with his neighbor.

Dancing hand in hand with team member, Natalie Gammill, Ansh moves into the second session of summer camp.  He stares out the window, lost in his own little world.  He seems to enjoy the dancing, and he loves to sing!  He has never been able to talk, but he sings like a bird and knows almost all the words to every song played.

His time in water play was the most fun to watch!  As he sits on plastic, being sprayed by a hose of water, Ansh continues with the self-stimulating activity of moving his hand rapidly in front of his face.  His left hand jumps in on the action and makes a motion that looks like he is trying to play air guitar.  His tongue hanging out of his mouth is what really tells me he’s enjoying the water play and it almost looks like he’s breaking into a smile.

Physical activity for the day includes roller skating.  Ansh is not too good at it.  He clings desperately to a stationary object as the other children go racing by.  But he still seems to be having fun!   He ends the day with arts and crafts where his teacher runs his thumb through finger paint and then rolls it onto paper in the shape of a caterpillar and a few flowers.  It’s been a good day for Ansh at camp!  It was sad to say goodbye, I sure hope I can see him again one day.

I recently learned that Ansh’s mother chose to give life to his sibling, a girl, who died after one day. His mother was worried about having another child since Ansh had autism.  But she chose life, however, short. She has recovered from her loss with the help of the Ashish Center, who provided her with counsel and stood with her in support.

To read more about Ashish (the name means “blessing”), please visit their website: or you can “like” and follow them on Facebook.

About Heidi Heinrich

Heidi Heinrich, church relationship manager for Food for the Hungry's community-to-community (C2C) program, got her start with Food for the Hungry as a volunteer. She began promoting child sponsorship after being incredibly moved to "just do something" about the poverty she had seen while serving internationally on a team. A mother of two adult children who are pursuing their life's work in serving the poor, Heidi attributes their passion to the impression made through child sponsorship. "It has been a journey." she says, "It all began by sponsoring a child in Bangladesh that led to serving on a team. I am very grateful for the experiences God has given me through sponsorship." She also enjoys art and music, and she is finishing her degree in Human Development through Hope International University.

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