The work among the blind in North India was initiated by Miss Hewlett and commenced by Miss Annie Sharp in the compound of St. Catherine’s Hospital in Amritsar in 1887.
Miss Hewlett, from U.K. was first interested in the blind from firsthand experience.After an attack of measles in childhood she was blind for over a year, and after recovery of sight she made a vow that she would try all through life to help the blind whenever there was opportunity.
On beginning her work in 1879 she soon realised the need of this great land, and rejoiced when in 1886 Miss Annie Sharp, who at Miss Hewlett’s request, had taken special training for this work, joined her.
The work grew steadily and the number of blind receiving help increased, until eventually it was felt that a healthier site than a busy city was desirable. So, through the goodness of God and the generosity of His faithful stewards, the present property in Rajpur was purchased in 1902.
This move necessitated Miss Sharp’s leaving Amritsar and, though still affiliated to St. Catherine’s Hospital, the school became an independent institution unsupported by any Missionary society but accepting help from any who desired to give.
Miss Hewlett helped in the move to Rajpur and returned to Amritsar a few days later, little realising what the future held, for 15 days after the move (April 1903) Miss Annie Sharp contracted Cholera and in a matter of hours was in the Presence of the Lord. She was only forty-four when she died.
Records show a continual flow of help and service from many members of the Sharp family both in UK and in India. Sisters Frances and Emily replaced Miss Annie and also at times by Dr. Maria and a niece, while a brother and other members of the family took care of the work at the home end. Eventually Miss Frances and Miss Emily had to return to UK but the family carried on the work choosing those suitable as leaders of the work in India, while they continued to interest supporters and collect necessary funds.
Reports tell of the faithful supply of every need, and of the increase in the amount of work done in the hand copying Braille Literature, which was sent out to many parts of the country.
Numbers of men, women, boys and girls resident at the home seemed to average 50 and we read of the subjects taught as reading, writing, arithmetic, weaving, caning, and knitting. The weaving was obviously of good quality for they tell at one point of receiving a silver medal for Excellency in weaving.
By 1917 Annie’s sister Dr. Maria Sharp, after a spell working in Lahore decided to join the staff at the school and we read of almost a repeat of April 1903. Dr. Maria arrived in Rajpur June 2nd 1917 and on June 10th died very suddenly of cholera. The family still continuing to supervise the school from England – in 1924 they sent out Miss Youngs who was to remain until 1959, a figure so very much loved and respected by all.
By 1930 the Sharp family handed over the school to a Mission called, BMMF, now known as Interserve.
In recognition of all that the Sharp family had done and still continued to do, the school became known as the Sharp Memorial School for the Blind. It was quite a record, two sisters gave their lives, two sisters gave their services while health and strength allowed and other members of the family worked faithfully for shorter periods in India and many in England. The name changed, the Trustees changed, but the work continues to date in the same spirit of devotion and loyalty to the One who called it into being.
This school is the oldest for the blind in India, a Christian Mission School for girls and boys of all casts and creeds.
When P.M. and Sumana Samuel took over the school in the year 1986 it was only up to 5th class and the organization is almost in the verge of closing down, due to financial constrains. But they have seen the hand of God miraculously meeting all the needs.
We thank God for Miss Jeanette Short, a staff of the school in the seventies, who came to our rescue and formed a trust in the UK. Miss Short worked among the Blind throughout her life and received a prestigious award from the Queen of England.
This is a co-educational Hindi Medium School that offers an inclusive model of education where both Blind and sighted study together. We follow Uttarakhand board syllabus and is recognized up to class 8. We thank God for the dedicated and well trained staff, who could take care of both Blind and sighed in the same class. We also give training in music, home Science and basic computer skills to our student. After class 8 boys leave for other schools in Delhi, Chandigarh, and Dehradun. Girls continue to stay and attend a regular school in Dehradun for their secondary and higher secondary education with the technical support of our special teachers. Our students are at par with the sighted students in the main stream, so much so that they are honoured with certificates and awards. After passing out from class 12 students go for graduation and then post graduation from local colleges in Dehradun, with the support of our teachers and volunteers.
We also give pre-vocational skills to students after school, in chair caning, basket making, and hand knitting. The hand knitted garments turns out to be a very high standard, and forms part of the income of the school.
Along with academics they also participate in indoor and outdoor games, take them for picnics, educational tours, outings, hiking, sightseeing and visit places of importance. They also take part in different meetings, National festivals and school functions. They are invited to sing National Anthem and other patriotic songs in Governmental and non Governmental organizations.
Our students have participated in various competitions at the state and national levels and won many awards. They have participated at the Abylimpics at state, national and international level at different events like hand Knitting, Silk hand painting, block printing, water colour painting, basket making, floral arrangement and waste material reuse and won awards in hand knitting, block printing, basket making, and floral arrangement at state and national levels.
Recently on Children’s day they have participated at the state level painting competition at Rajbhavan in Dehra Dun and won awards. National level painting competition awards for 2015 and 2016 were announced on, 15th September 2017 at Delhi. 6 students from Sharp Memorial School won the award for Uttarakhand State. We are proud of them. Our students are more disciplined, hard working, and have learned to take responsibilities which are praise worthy.
We believe that education leads to empowerment. The holistic approach to education at our school is a stepping stone to success for many of our students to enter into an inclusive society. After completing the degree and professional courses our students are well placed in jobs. To name a few they are in health department, department of fisheries, banks, Cochin shipyard, Airport authority of India, NTPC, Railways, as
advocates in the court, teachers at many schools and at SSA (Sarva Siksha Abhiyan). Many of our students are married and settled in life.
We have a well equipped low vision centre where many teachers from the Government and Non- government organizations visit to get hands on experience. Many teachers, optometrists and other eye care professionals who were trained in functional low vision at our School are working at their respective places both in India and abroad. Our students are clinically assed to see if anything can be done to improve their vision. As a result 33 eye surgeries are done so far and quality of their life was improved. Each student is functionally assed to see which learning media they can work with (Braille/ Print or Both) though legally Blind, many students can read and write in print.
We have started a Community Based Rehabilitation Programme in the Doiwalla Block in the year 2002 with the help of Dark & Light, The Netherlands. Through this programme we educated and rehabilitated many handicapped. We conducted many eye camps in this area and got several hundred cataract patients operated with the help of Herbertpur Christian Hospital and the Drishti Eye Centre, Dehra Dun. Several hundreds were treated for eye diseases and/or Vitamin A deficiency. Talks on health and hygiene and other important subjects like HIV/AIDS were given to the villagers. We have also distributed aids & appliances like tricycles, wheel chairs and special chairs for the handicapped in this area. Prescription glasses & eye medicines were also given freely. (Unfortunately this work had to be stopped due to financial constrains).
Sharp Memorial School was the Study Centre for university courses from 2003 to 2014. We had Foundation course, B.Ed (Special Education-Distance Education) and PGPD courses (post graduate professional diploma) for Visual Impairment under the Bhoj Open University, Bhopal, and Indira Gandhi National Open University in collaboration with the Rehabilitation Council of India, under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (Govt. of India).
We started a course on “cutting and tailoring” under National Institute of Open Schooling – not only for the Blind, but also for the poor sighted girls, mainly the school dropouts from the nearby villages.
This is a very small summary. There is much more to it, there are many success stories to share. Please do come, and encourage the children with your presence.