After completing her primary schooling, Suchitra’s physically challenged sister was refused admission into every normal school. This angered her and in the face of this emotional meltdown, Suchitra’s father took a bold decision. He enrolled both his daughters in a school for the physically challenged. ‘My sister couldn’t go alone and I was made to accompany her. I wasn’t happy with that decision at all. In fact, I was angry that my life had been taken away from me.’
But that incident was perhaps the turning point for Suchitra Rao who later began her career as a Computer Hardware and Networking faculty. It was then that she realized that the difficulties faced by physically challenged students were strikingly familiar, and so using her skill-set of sign language started training children, often going out of her way to pay their course fees too. ‘I chanced upon two physically challenged twin brothers who shared an experience similar to my sister’s. Though I offered to teach them, their mother refused, citing that not only did she not have money for the fee but that she also would lose the money that the boys helped her earn at the flour mill.’ Suchitra paid the lady from her pocket. Today one of the boys is a Central Government employee and the mother has never left Suchitra’s side.
Suchitra was soon spending most of her salary for many such children. She next started the Prajwal Vani Welfare Society (PVWS), whereby she would provide computer hardware training to physically challenged students for free. Till date, she has trained over 600 students. From helping the deaf and mute she also helped a blind boy, on the Jaws software, which is meant for the blind. ‘He has trained many like him.’
In 2012, Suchitra started working with mentally challenged children too. Realizing that every challenged child was blessed with some skill she cites the example of a child who despite being a slow learner at school could recite the entire cricket commentary word by word after a TV show. Suchitra asked his mother to read lessons to him and they soon realized that the boy had good retention power.
Today her students have a hope to upgrade their education and skills even after the tenth grade. While some have pursued higher education, others have gone on to take up vocational avenues like computer hardware repair, plumbing, tailoring, jewelry making, candle making and even making jute bags. ‘They may be slower, taking three years to clear a one-year course, but they are moving forward’ she shares. She also adds that college is important for these children as it helps them hone behavioral skills. PVWS empowers them at every step; talking to colleges and coaching centers and convincing them to admit a few such students.
With her, the once limited avenues have become limitless, and she has opened up a world of opportunities for these young children. She has become their Lady Nightingale, empowering them with the light of knowledge, learning, and hope. The Yo! Vizag team salutes her grit and endeavor.
check their website www.pvws.net.