“I want to do something for the people.” Very often we come across this idea or hear someone say these words. At a time when most of us only think of doing something for the society, here are women ahead of us, From training to supporting, educating and taking complete care of the underprivileged, these women prove that ventures can be even more satisfying and value-driven when you do them for someone else, especially the underprivileged.
Icha means desire, and for Madhu Tugnait, a successful fashion designer turned social worker, it was the desire of rebuilding life for the young and providing service to society that shaped her journey. ‘I had always wanted to do something for humanity, and my dream finally grew through Icha. My heart went out to orphaned and abandoned kids.’ She thus got in touch with Sishu Kendra where it was heart wrenching to see a few spastic children that no one was adopting. She instantly knew what she wanted to do. ‘It was tough to get started, but then I got the necessary paperwork done.’ One thing led to another, and Alaknanda, a 9 month old blind and spastic baby was the first to be adopted by Icha. Today Madhu’s family has grown and comprises of seven children and two caregivers.
‘I had always wanted to do something for humanity, and my dream finally grew through Icha.’
Icha foundation has also grown in its dream, and it aims to be a haven for single women and elderly people. In fact in Madhu’s words, ‘Icha offers shelter to needy people across categories’. Madhu has also acquired land near Kondakarlava with five cottages for the kids to live in. Madhu spends her entire week at the village with the children, returning to the city only during weekends. A physiotherapist and teacher live at the NGO to look after the children. ‘We are now starting a school for these children as well’ Madhu tells us. The education center would be designed keeping the needs of these children in mind. We hope that more people benefit from this initiative and Icha’s family grows in the process.
Amma to over 28 children, Rajamukhi is the reason that many of them lead happy and content lives. With a concern for the fellow being from a very young age, Rajmukhi recalls how in 1989 she brought a child from the streets home. Marrying a supportive spouse in 1991 strengthened her resolve and soon Rajamukhi’s family started growing. Today she has registered herself under the banner of CHILD, a welfare society where many such children are looked after. ‘My husband has been supportive and along with his support and that of like-minded people, we have constructed a house for these children on one acre of land at Madhurawada.’ Also the family has grown, bringing change and a reason to live a good life.
‘When they come to me, I first tutor them myself on manners, etiquette and behaviour. They then go through regular schooling from SFS School.’
Rajmukhi ensures that each child gets the care he or she deserves. These children are often orphans or abandoned kids, identified in the newspapers, with no one to look after. With CHILD, many of them are able to get a normal life. ‘When they come to me, I first tutor them myself on manners, etiquette and behaviour. Then they go through regular schooling from SFS School’. She has also ensured that each child is given a bed and a cupboard as personal space. They are also learning classical dance, fabric painting and stitching, apart from education.
Rajmukhi tells us that there is no regular funding that holds CHILD together. Also, she is soon planning to shift with her husband and children to Madhurawada. Donations from generous friends, dipping into their own funds and deep hearts is what makes CHILD and the children of Rajamukhi’s home live a contented life.
In German, ‘Leben’ means life and ‘Hilfe’ means help. So when Dr. Saraswati Devi completed her Special Education from US, she quickly took on the next step as an intensive trainee in the parent organization of Lebenshilfe. In 1980, she opened the center in Vizag, and even today, Lebenshilfe and Dr. Saraswati are dedicated to the cause of people with intellectual disabilities. ‘I was seventeen, when I saw a thin woman carrying a baby and begging. I uncovered the baby’s face to see that the child didn’t look normal. Moreover,
the mother told me that the baby wasn’t hers, she had simply borrowed it for begging. The incident affected me and formed the turning point from which other things were to follow.’
Located behind the Deccan Chronicle, today Lebenshilfe is home to over 400 children who come here to play, learn and live. A staff of over 100 people manages the premises and keep the operations moving smoothly. And Dr. Saraswati, unassuming and dynamic, manages it all with ease.
‘I was seventeen, when I saw a thin woman carrying a baby and begging.’
The biggest challenges she faces are of funding and awareness. ‘While the awareness has improved, still people need to know about the conditions.’ She also talks about the difference in economic backgrounds and of how affluent parents are not willing to send their wards to the same school as poor children. ‘But the purpose of Lebenshilfe is to reach out to people who cannot afford treatment or cure. We provide everything for free.’ A group of parents wait in the school premises to feed their children. For them, this school is the perfect abode of both learning and living.
While there are many trainers on computer hardware and networking, Suchitra Rao chooses to provide hope and a ray of light through ‘Prajwal Vani’ by working with the differently abled instead. ‘While working as a guest faculty for Jan Shiksha Sansthan from the past seven years and having trained over 800 people , I was approached by differently abled people interested to learn.’
Instead of staying in her comfort zone and sending them away, Suchitra Rao chose the tougher yet determined path of training all those who wanted to learn. She soon started an NGO called the ‘Prajwal Vani Welfare Society’ in January 2013 and started providing technical education to all those who desired it.
‘While working as a guest faculty for Jan Shiksha Sansthan from the past seven years and having trained over 800 people, I was approached by differently abled people interested to learn.’
Today under its banner, Suchitra trains many people on courses of computer hardware, networking, tailoring, mobile repair, Photoshop, MS Office etc. for free of charge. Her main motivation is her sister who is deaf and who had no courses to turn to after the 10th grade. Courses at ‘Prajwal Vani’ are for those who complete 14years of age. Suchitra assists that age group through the courses she runs helping provide a source of employment and self-sufficiency for the many who deserve it. The biggest challenges she faces are for funds, a permanent place and much needed for equipment and venue, but she makes up for it with her sheer enthusiasm.
When life hands you troubles, most people complain, however personalities like Dr. Usha choose to turn them around into opportunities. So when her niece was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in 1994, Dr. Usha set out to look for a school that could take care of her unique needs.
Finding none that she liked, she finally began ‘Ashrayadham’ a school in Anakapalli that could cater to many such children. ‘We began work in 2005 with five children and today there are 73 children who are part of our efforts.’ Dr. Usha, a UNDP consultant before this venture saw the problems these children and their families faced from up close. ‘It’s unfortunate to see the various issues such children have to face like sex discrimination, consanguinity in marriages, uterus removal surgeries for girls, over negligence etc.’
‘We began work in 2005 with five children and today there are 73 children who are part of our efforts.’
Dr. Usha through Sreya Foundation offers many services like residential respite care for the challenged, vocational training for the adult challenged and special school opportunities to make their life easier. As for the future, they plan a full-fledged Early Intervention Centre for MR kids ranging from 0-3 years.
Today she takes care of many such children, the funding for them often coming from her savings and a deep heart. She is thankful for a supportive husband and her group of teachers who take personal care of each child. She tells us the issues they face in rural areas ranging from identifying such children, to convincing parents about differential care. With a motto to give respite to those children who truly deserve a better life.
The desire to help and serve mentally challenged children is the driving force behind Ms. MN Kumari and Sunflower School. The fledgling operations that started in 1982 as a normal school, gained momentum when a child with physical disability approached Ms. Kumari in 1986. Instead of turning her away, she provided admission and options for learning.
‘Each child’s milestones are different and our success lies in helping them achieve those milestones’
One thing led to another and Sunflower school today has operations at Madhurawada and Pedda Waltair. Today Ms. Kumari’s dream has grown in size and magnitude and the strength of children with disabilities being educated is at 146. The schools she runs cater to different kinds of children, be it with physical or mental handicaps or other situational conditions. The teachers have also obtained training from the NIMH-National Institute of Mentally Handicapped, Secunderabad. The hostels provide home to many orphans and children with disabilities. ‘Each child’s milestones are different and our success lies in helping them achieve those milestones’ she says when we talk about what success means to them.
But along with big dreams come bigger challenges. Thus while the awareness regarding mental and physical handicaps has grown, organizations such as theirs still have a long way to go.
‘Also, we face challenges regarding funding and proper training.’ Ms, Kumari tells us how it is difficult to obtain both. But individual donors do come forth from time to time.