Joel Joshua performs a heartwarming rendition of ‘You Raise Me Up.’
When the differently-abled Joel Joshua Augustian was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – a developmental inability caused by differences in the brain – his family was justifiably weary about his future.
Lacking confidence and facing learning and attentional challenges, Joshua’s family endeavoured to do all they could to help him reach his full potential but did not know where and how to start – until they enrolled the nine-year-old in Taarana School.
The school for children with special education needs was established in 2011 by RYTHM Foundation, the social impact initiative of the QI Group.
Taarana, which means ‘awakening’ in Sanskrit, addresses the urgent need for resources and support for children with special learning needs and their families. The school seeks to unlock every child’s ability through a personalised curriculum to empower them to become independent and contributing members of society.
In just over a year since joining a Taarana academic class, Joshua has become a more assured individual and improved his social skills. Oh, and he has developed a love and certitude for singing!
Joshua’s transformation, tenacity, and, indeed, vocal skills were hugely apparent at Taarana’s recent Annual Day celebration.
First, he participated as ‘The Little Boy’ in a skit based on ‘The Enormous Turnip’, a classic Russian folktale about an elderly man’s adventures cultivating turnips. Joshua and his schoolmates captivated the audience with a depiction all their own.
However, the next item – Joshua’s heart-warming, solo rendition of Josh Groban’s ‘You Raise Me Up’ – left the audience mesmerised and teary-eyed. Known for singing with immense joy at school, Joshua was no less resolute to perform his best during the event.
Alongside his memorable performances, Joshua also received recognition for his sheer dedication to his studies and school activities during an awards ceremony celebrating the students’ vast growth and achievements.
The lad collected five certificates – a ‘Progressive Award’, an ‘Awesome Attendance Award’, a ‘Certificate of Participation’ for Taarana’s Sports Day, ‘Certificate of Participation’ for Taarana’s Sensory Day and, naturally, an ‘Awesome Artist Award’ not only for the day’s rendition but also for his inclination toward music.
Joshua receives recognition for his dedication to his schooling from QI Group Founder and Executive Chairman Dato’ Sri Vijay Eswaran and Chairperson of RYTHM Foundation Datin Sri Umayal Eswaran.
These achievements reflect Joshua’s progress by leaps and bounds in developing his speech, cognitive, communication, and other educational skills. His sister, Ann Madeline, shared her family’s astonishment at his advancements and improvements:
“Joshua has been able to read and write long sentences since joining Taarana. In addition, we have noticed a tremendous improvement in his speech and cognitive, communication, and math skills whilst holding eye contact and gesturing to share his communication with others,” she said in her speech.
Ann also paid her family’s tribute to Taarana and its teaching staff. “I am thankful to Joshua’s teachers for moulding my brother into the best version of him today. Teaching is challenging. No other profession can shape the minds of little ones and the world of tomorrow.
“To all Taarana teachers, you are creating an extraordinary legacy right here. Thank you is not enough but thank you nonetheless. All of you are cherished and amazing.”
Joshua’s triumphant story proves that the differently-abled can lead positive lives with dedication, support, the appropriate education, and awareness.
Left: Joshua’s sister Ann Madeline pays tribute to the Foundation and Taarana’s teachers. Right: The children in a scene from ‘The Enormous Turnip.’
The Chairperson of RYTHM, Datin Sri Umayal Eswaran, was equally impressed by the progress of Taarana’s students and their astonishing performances.
“Following the COVID-19 pandemic, these children experienced challenges unlike their typically-abled peers because online programmes are difficult for differently-abled kids. However, despite that, the progress they showed was remarkable to witness.
“This is a testament that we all need to help them build their confidence and show that they can become independent individuals and live a better quality of life,” she said.
Datin Sri Umayal also singled out one of the school and Foundation’s aims to create awareness against the exclusion of the differently-abled.
“Don’t treat the differently-abled negatively or as those that require effort to deal with. Rather, show love because they need to feel that from us. Love and care are what translates to hope for them. However different they may be, they are not less; we must remember that.”
Through Taarana and other related initiatives, RYTHM seeks to ensure inclusive, equitable, and quality education for all. The Foundation has invested considerable time, effort and resources in projects that provide access to education to underserved communities, scholarships, and fund school programmes. We recognise that education is the greatest equaliser in modern society, and we strive to contribute towards the promotion of an inclusive and equitable society.
Watch the students dazzle on stage alongside heartfelt messages from Datin Sri Umayal and the children’s family members in the video below: