Sharjah gets a rice field thanks to these 69 special needs kids
Children with conditions such as autism, blindness, Down syndrome, and developmental disorders had the time of their lives planting rice.- Supplied photo
Sharjah - Dressed in traditional farmers clothing, children enjoyed the experience.
By Dhanusha Gokulan
Published: Sat 13 Jan 2018, 3:00 PM
Last updated: Sat 13 Jan 2018, 6:01 PM
Shabana Riyaz beamed with pride when her 17-year-old autistic son Sahel walked into a wet mud paddy field to plant rice seedlings. She admitted that it was one of the happiest moments of her life when Sahel accomplished the task and got comfortable in the damp soil.
Sahel was not alone. Over 60 determined children of all age groups and their parents enjoyed a truly exuberant day planting rice seedlings at agricultural enthusiast Sudheesh Guruvayoor's private farm in Al Mansoora, Sharjah, on Saturday, January 13. Located near Kuwaiti Hospital, children with conditions such as autism, blindness, Down syndrome, and developmental disorders had the time of their lives planting rice.
Dressed in traditional farmers clothing, children enjoyed the experience. "They were excited to play in the mud. It felt wonderful that we could do it with them. We will harvest this plantation in the month of April," said Sudheesh. The electrical engineer turned agricultural enthusiast has now started his own company 'Green Life Organic Farming', a company that customises, grows and manages vegetable patches and garden landscapes for residents. Sudheesh grows a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Commenting on the event, Shabana said: "It was a great experience for the children. Since many of the students suffer from sensory issues, we got them into the mud as practice a week ago. While many expressed discomfort in the mud last week, this week they were completely acclimatised, and truly enjoyed the experience." Shabana is part of parents with determined children collective called 'Heavenly Angels', where they volunteer to take children on field trips.
Sajan Kailas, parent of Adithya Sajan, a child with developmental disorder said: "Due to his sensory issues, he couldn't enter the field initially. But seeing other children do the same, he quickly got enthusiastic and did the same. It was a really nice experience for us," said Kailas.
Sudheesh takes the help of his wife Ragi, to conduct sessions for children. The couple first began working with the school children after Sudheesh conducted a few study sessions at schools. "Children didn't know where the rice came from. He would take classes in schools and one time a student asked if rice it grows on trees. That is when we realised that majority of the children living here don't know the source of their food," said Ragi.
"We now hold classes in Sharjah Indian School, Our Own English High School, Sharjah; Emirates School, Sharjah; Indian Academy Dubai and Sharjah, and a few other schools," added Sudheesh.
The couple began growing rice early last year. "Like how it's done back home, we divide the land in our villa into three plots and started growing rice in one plot, and vegetables in the other. Last years, we harvested about 25 kilos of rice. We planted the first batch in January and harvested it by April. It takes about 4-5 months to grow, depending on weather conditions," said Sudheesh.
Playing with mud is very therapeutic for children of determination, said Ragi. "There are centres in theUAE that charge Dh150 per child for mud therapy sessions. With an activity like this one, the children undergo mud therapy, and also learn the source of their food."
Sudheesh added: "I studied engineering. Even during my growing up years, I had no relation to agriculture or related activities. But farming and growing plants as an activity is very therapeutic, even for adults," he added. Sudheesh recommends all people to grow a little patch of vegetables in their garden.
The Indian national now holds five world records to his credit in farming. "You are growing your own food and you have access to fresh, organically grown vegetables. And the chances of pesticide-related diseases are cut down drastically if you grow your own veggies," he concluded.