VARANASI: Tall and fit, with a shy smile, Dr Moreno Toldo from Italy looks like one of numerous tourists visiting Kashi everyday. But once you begin a conversation with him, the fire and determination of his start shining forth through his words. The 63-year-old man has dedicated his life to the rural Indian people to help them overcoming Autism.
At the age of 30, Dr Toldo visited Varanasi for the first time. The fact stroke him that rural and poor population is not aware of the mental disorder known as Autism. For the next 23 years, the medical professional made several visits to the country and worked to educate, spread and increase awareness about the Autism Spectrum Disorder. However only in 2006 the man totally shifted to Varanasi and started working for the integral rehabilitation and education of the children and the empowerment of their families.
“Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. However, the fact is unknown that poor and rural society consider the person with such neurological differences rude or demonstrating bad behavior, while in fact, he or she does not perceive these differences,” says Dr Toldo.
The man further points out that he feels the public services are not yet able to meet their needs while the private services are too expensive.
“In a bid to work for the rural people, I met the director of Kiran Society Sister Sangeeta JK. A resident of Switzerland, she founded this society 25 years ago for rehabilitation, education and vocational training of differently-abled children from Varanasi and the surrounding districts. I found it as a ray of hope for those who have no proper medical support from public and cannot reach private services. In 2006, I joined the society,” says Dr Toldo.
To put aside Autism, the man works for every kind of physically-disabled children with the help of this society situated at Madhopur in the outskirt of the city.
The society has a mobile team that organizes camps in around 50 villages of Varanasi and the surrounding districts. During these camps specialists educate people about medical and personal care needed by this particular section of society.
“We have also started a Family Mediated Integrated Program (FMIP) in collaboration with a leading institute of Bangalore for the treatment of communication impairments in children below aged five years. In this, we included 15 families with their children affected from Autism. They gone through therapy demonstrations and home training program to understand the need of their child and help them to recover,” shared Dr Moreno Toldo.
He has never got married but says that the differently-abled children he helps to, are his family.