I did this story for the women's supplement under 'Community Connect' slug.
People reading this....please help if you can.
Headline: A Part of the Whole
“Life is like a jigsaw puzzle. And we are the pieces trying to fit in. Each of us has a place; we just have to find it,” says Meena Bedarkar of the Nirmalya Trust.
Bedarkar founded the trust so that the visually, hearing impaired and paraplegics could 'find a place of their own' – in this case, employment.
“All over the world, parents worry about their kids. 'Who's going to look after my son/daughter when I am dead and gone? Will they find a good job?' This concern is more pronounced in the parents who have challenged kids. Hence we decided to start vocation units for these youngsters and adults and also act as a placement agency,” says Bedarkar, who's daughter, Tanuja, is a spastic.
The trust, which was founded in 2005, supports nearly 1,000 persons with disabilities in both the urban and rural sector. Some of them work from homes, while some work at a park and their registered office tucked away in the leafy neighbourhood of Bhandarkar Road.
The first vocation unit they set up was a nursery, Sunkisd Plant Nursery.
“The visually and hearing impaired worked in perfect harmony with the paraplegics. They worked with each other's abilities – like the hearing impaired tended to plants, visually impaired added soil and other nutrients, and the paraplegics packed the saplings in the bag. Their varying educational and financial background did not create any rift,” says Bedarkar.
At present they also have people making paper and cloth bags at their Taruvar unit. They also provide callipers, crutches and two-wheelers attached with side wheels to the paraplegics. The trust also caters to the educational needs of the disabled people.
“In March we came out with the first Braille version of Maher, a Marathi monthly. We hope to bring it out month after month. We also wish to support them with tuition, hostel and mess bills,” she says.
The work, says Bedarkar, needs immense patience. But, she also adds, that working with the disabled people has changed her perspective towards life.
“It's because of my daughter Tanuja that I am here. She has completed her Std XII through National Institute of Open Schooling and is an asset at our work. She finds it difficult to use her left side. So, she sits on the chair and with her right hand flip opens the newspaper. She is the first in the chain of making a paper bag out of the newspaper. When I see her attending to telephone calls and responding to mails and trying her hand at other things, I find it easier to motivate other people. Tanuja is my standard of measurement,” says Bedarkar, who was a craft teacher for 25 years.
The trust wants the disabled people gainfully employed. “We want to ensure that they get work and not charity. Our experience tells us that if they are gainfully employed they are able to adjust better with their families; their hurt and anger levels come down. When they see there are several others like them, trying to make a living with dignity and respect, they realise that they are a part of the whole” concludes Bedarkar.
How can you help
- Buy plants
- Donate raddi to make paper bags
- Volunteer to help the disabled people with English conversational or computer skills
- If there are any job vacancies, please call Nirmalya Trust at 9422509649