Volume 2 Issue 15 - August 01, 2004

Enabled achievers

This year Delhi-based NGO Deepalaya is celebrating 25 years of good work. An educational organisation, set up to teach slum children, in recent years it has developed the objective of developing positive attitudes among parents and communities towards otherwise-talented physically and mentally challenged children. It believes that the way forward for such children is through mainstreaming them to improve their quality of life. Several children have already benefited from Deepalaya’s good works, and four disabled students are featured in Deepalaya’s book of 25 Child Achievers, published in July to celebrate the anniversary. We tell their stories below.

Saroj: Carving his own destiny

“We did not know how to manage him and used to keep him locked indoors,” were the words of Radhey Shyam, for none other than his own son, Saroj. Born with cerebral palsy, 22-year-old Saroj was considered a burden by his family, comprising three brothers and a sister. Residing at Transit Camp, South Delhi, Saroj was leading a restricted life.

This, however, is history.

In 1994, with a lot of persuasion, Saroj’s parents agreed to send him to the Special Unit of Deepalaya for the differently abled. He received basic education, speech and language therapy, and special education of identifying colours, alphabets and numbers.

After five years of training at the Special Unit, attempts were made to rehabiliate Saroj as is done in the case of all the other children. In this regard, the children undergo training in different activities like stitching, knitting and carpet making. Saroj, however, mastered a different art. Initially, he was trained in handling phone calls at the office. “He used to make the effort of getting up and running around the office to trace the receiver of the call. Never mind the distance,” recollects Mr Pradeep, manager, south Delhi project of Deepalaya. Since his physical disability hampered his movement, gradually he was trained in dialing numbers.

Over time, Saroj became confident of handling and making phone calls and Deepalaya took the initiative of helping him establish a STD booth in his locality from the disability quota. Today, he is the proud owner of Saroj Telecom Centre, his daily collection ranging between Rs 250-500, of which he earns a percentage permitted by the Telecom department. “Deepalaya helped me in becoming self sufficient by providing me an instrument of earning”, says Saroj. His telecom centre is more than two years old today and he manages it along with his father and brothers.

Extremely fond of Bollywood movies and songs, Saroj participated in several cultural programmes. He has won many laurels for Deepalaya!

Picture of Lekhraj, who has polio and is currently doing an electricals course.

Lekhraj: Fighting all odds

I met Lekhraj when Deepalaya’s team first came to visit the Gole Kuan area in 1989-90. He was a weak boy suffering from polio. The attitude of his family and community was far more painful: “It will be better if he dies,” were the words of the people in the area.

Deepalaya’s interaction with Lekhraj made one thing very clear – he had a lot of potential. Deepalaya took Lekhraj under its care and supported him both physically and academically. In 1995, Deepalaya arranged for his treatment at St Stephens Hospital, New Delhi, where he was provided with calipers and crutches, enabling him to stand on his feet. Today, Lekhraj is 19 years of age and does not need help from anyone while walking or in any other walk of life. He has proved his friends and family wrong. In fact, he has surpassed his own expectations.

His efforts stand tall in the arena of education. Lekhraj started with the Non-formal Education Classes at Deepalaya and gradually moved on to join the MCD school in Std VI. He continued till Std VIII and then moved on to the government school for further studies. His new school was about 4-5 km away and Lekhraj had to commute by bus. He carried on for a year but was forced to quit due to the physical strain involved. I remember that he used to come back exhausted and drained. This just goes to show that our education system is not free from barriers. Despite will and support, Lekhraj had to discontinue his education mid way.

But he has not given up. He is studying through the National Open School System and will appear for his Xth Board exams in the coming year. He has taken charge of his professional life as well. Currently he is pursuing an electrical course, where he learns activities like fan repairing, motor winding, etc. He applied for a job at various shops and offices but was rejected on grounds of disability. He does not want to look for a job any longer, and wants to do something of his own.

(Lekhraj’s profile has been written by Mr Pradeep, Manager, South Delhi project of Deepalaya.)

Picture of Rabiya, who has polio.

Rabiya: Each dawn, a new struggle

Rabiya’s bond with Deepalaya is a decade old. Residing in Transit Camp area of Kalkaji, Rabiya is a young entrepreneur inflicted with polio. With a mature head on young shoulders, Rabiya, 18 years of age, manages a grocery store in her locality to help support her family. Her shop is at a distance of 2 km from her residence and she has to load and unload most of the products every day. Located at the corner of a pavement, she sells small products such as snacks and soft drinks. She has to fight the fear of MCD’s removal drive and the pressures of her competitors as well.

Rabiya came in contact with Deepalaya during one of the frequent visits by the staff to the Transit Camp Slums in South Delhi in 1997. As a young 11-year-old, she used to attend vocational training at Deepalaya in stitching, weaving, carpet making and painting.

After studying till Std VIII in MCD School, she was forced to quit due to her poor economic condition. Rabiya attended special classes at Deepalaya’s Sanjay Colony School, where she was taught subjects like English and Mathematics. She fondly remembers the good times spent in Deepalaya. As an active member of the youth club, Rabiya participated in several cultural activities and programmes like Disability day and Sports day. “The teachers spent a lot time with the students. They taught us with immense love, affection and care”, recounts Rabiya.

Rabiya was also provided occupational therapy by Deepalaya on a regular basis. Parallel to this, she underwent treatment at Apollo and St Stephens Hospital. She has shown positive signs of improvement at personal, social, occupational and recreational levels. She also gained information about general issues regarding heath and hygiene and tries to inculcate all these lessons into her personal life.

Picture of Jacky, who is hearing impaired, and works with the organisation Balloons.

Jacky: An inspiring persona

“He is a very pleasant person, full of enthusiasm. One does not even realise that he is hearing impaired with delayed speech and language,” states Natasha, Jacky’s colleague at Balloons Export House, New Delhi. Jacky works with the quality control division of Balloons.

Jacky was facing serious problems at home and in the community when Deepalaya reached out to him with solutions. Residing in the Khori village slum, Surajkund, Jacky’s father is a factory worker and his mother a housewife. The family came into contact with Deepalaya in 2000 and Jacky was admitted to the Special Unit of Deepalaya. Here he was provided therapy in speech, personality development and communication. Support in the form of hearing aids was also made available to Jacky. After three years of training, Deepalaya facilitated Jacky’s training at Balloons in October 2003.

Following a two-month training period, Jacky was employed at Balloons. “He took keen interest in the work and was eager to learn new things,” says Natasha.

Jacky has been working in the organisation for the past six months. He supports his family and has adopted a confident approach towards life. Training in sign language has enabled him to communicate with his colleagues at the workplace. He is popular among his co-workers because of his friendly behaviour. Today Jacky has transformed himself from a depressed individual to a motivated and confident one.

“Because of his disability, Jacky had problems in communicating with others. He was unable to interact freely with people in his community,” recollects Mr Sudhir, under whose guidance Jacky was trained. “There is a tremendous change in his behaviour today. He has put all his inhibitions to rest and his interaction with others has improved a lot,” he adds.

Text reproduced by kind permission of Deepalaya. Picture courtesy: Deepalaya. For more information please visit www.deepalaya.org

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