Gifting Empowerment On Diwali For Last 75 Yrs: This Organisation Trains Visually-Impaired On Multiple Skills

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The problems faced by visually-impaired individuals are multifold. Ranging from lack of accessible facilities to getting an opportunity to upskill themselves, they require an inclusive environment to be fostered in order to become more self-reliant. With the same vision in mind, The Blind Relief Association situated in New Delhi has been helping such individuals lead their lives with confidence and dignity for the past 75 years.

With the festive season around the corner, the association has organised a ‘Blind School Diwali Mela’. Started in 1980, the Diwali Mela is held annually at the sprawling grounds near Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg in the premises of the association. The trainees and the staff members could be spotted working swiftly through various stalls where products made by the trainees are showcased. The earnings from this event are directed towards financing the association, which provides free training to the visually-impaired individuals.

“At the association, we aim to boost the confidence of the trainees by giving them training in various areas such as personality development, and spoken English. We also provide vocational courses such as computer training. Apart from training them, we attempt to provide them with resources such as reading the material in Braille and audiobooks on various topics. I feel that they can work as confidently as any other individual when given appropriate training, and it could be a life-changing session for them.” said Swapna Merlin, communication head.

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Emergency funds sent to 250 families

Apart from the Diwali Mela, the association runs a year-long programme for the visually-impaired who have not got any chance to receive a formal education. The association also attempts to provide them with placements and has a list of trainees who are able to transform their personal lives post attending the training sessions. The computer training has assisted many individuals in achieving their career goals.

Mohammed Shakib Khan, one of the trainees hailing from Ghaziabad, shared his story of from being shy to be being able to hold a mic and speak confidently. “I was very hesitant in public speaking before coming here. I never had the confidence to speak on mic publicly and never thought that I would be doing story-telling sessions. But post coming here, I have received spoken classes, and it helped me a lot. I have also learnt book-binding and stitching here. It makes me happy to learn new skills, and there’s still so much to learn,” he said.


Another trainee named Jyoti Prajapati said she regained her confidence after coming to the association. “After losing my eyesight, I never thought that I would be able to experience things as before. I was dependent on others, and I felt that I would never be completely on my own. But after coming here, I have gained back my lost confidence, and I don’t regret what happened in the past. The skills which I’ve gained here help me each day- be it commuting, expressing myself or reading new things. I have found good friends over here, and we stay together like a big family,” she said.

Under the aegis of the association, a senior secondary school is also run. The school is recognised by the Directorate of Education, NCT Delhi and CBSE. It provides free education, boarding, lodging, books and other services to boys from nursery till class 12th. At the same time, it encourages them to take part in diverse extracurricular activities. Their main objective is to impart essential skills to the students so that they could become a part of the mainstream. Also, their six-month relaxation-massage training, call-centre programme, and candle-making programme has helped many of them find employment and lead their lives independently.

The life-transforming stories of the visually-impaired individuals appeal to our mind and put in question the present-day state of accessibility for the blind population in our country.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote Is Distributing 40,000+ Meals Per Day In Mumbai During Covid-19 Lockdown

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Every global crisis affects every country in a different way depending on their socio-economic background. The COVID 19 pandemic hit India straight in its gut. After the lockdown daily wage workers and people who are underprivileged have been rendered out of their jobs. This has ultimately pushed them to an acute financial crisis so much so that even being able to afford two meals a day has become impossible. While we all wait for normalcy to bring us back our sanity, the financially disadvantaged people on the streets are fighting both the pandemic and hunger.

In a scenario like so, a number of social groups have come forward to help in whatever way they can. One of the worst hit cities is Mumbai, where 5 lakh migrant workers, the homeless and underprivileged residents of slums and chawls, waiting endlessly for normalcy to return., an initiative by is cooking food and delivering them to those in dire need, every single day.

“” that was launched in the city of Mumbai on March 29th, is one of its kind people-driven movements that has been running hall and hearty by the people coming from all across. It is that classic example of solidarity where people from all backgrounds, cultural and social has come together to ensure that every mouth is fed.

Brains behind KhaanaChahiye
Top : Pathik Muni, Ruben Mascarenhas. Below: Munaf Kapadia, Shishir Joshi

How does work

What’s different you ask? has built a capacity of preparing over a whopping 50000+ meals on a daily basis by activating the closed kitchens on several Mumbai routes. Pathik Muni, who has been particularly invested in the mission says, “ We crowdsource demand on hunger pockets and then map it to supply-side by activating closed kitchens. Our partner NGO “Project Mumbai” with reach to the relevant stake holders in Government departments helps us facilitate permissions to activate these closed Kitchens with a turn around of 24 hours. Parallelly we raise funds to map the demand.”

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Emergency funds sent to 250 families

Areas of food distribution in Mumbai

The food that is prepared is not just hygienic but also fits the calorie count that is sufficient for a person to get him through the day. Every meal consists of daal-rice, aloo-sabzi, chole rotis, veg pulav etc. has a volunteer-driven collective drive in various areas of Mumbai where people in large numbers have come forward to contribute in the many ways possible. So far the initiative has covered the Bandra to Dahisar route on Western Express Highway, Sion to CST and underprivileged pockets between Mankurd to Kurla on Eastern Express Highway, Juhu to Dahisar on Linking road, a cluster of 1100 labor camps near Mumbai Central and a part of Dharavi Slums.

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Food distribution areas  in Mumbai by

  1. To beggars & homeless
    • below the flyovers between Bandra to Dahisar on Western Express Highway,
    • between Juhu to Dahisar on Link road
    • below the flyovers between Ghatkopar to CST
    • under privileged pockets between Mankurd to Kurla.on Eastern Express Highway,
  2. To labour camps
    • a cluster of 1100 labour camp near Mumbai Central
    • a cluster of 3000 labour camp near Govandi
    • a cluster of 2000 labour camp near Mahul
    • a cluster of 750 labour camp in Colaba
  3. Parts of Dharavi Slums towards Cotton Green.
  4. Over 5000 meals in labour camps at various location identified and provided by the Assistant Commissioner,
  5. Serving food to over 5000 meals in Worli and Bandra on request of the local MLA and Corporator.

Immense demand of food in next 10 days

The intent of the movement is to continue the drive of feeding the needy in these difficult times at least until the lockdown is lifted by the government. However, as the days are proceeding, initiative has identified more and more hunger pockets as a result of which the demand for food is just rising since the time it started. To give a perspective of the recently emerged roadblock, Pathik says, “Nine days back, we started with 1200 meals and we are already catering a demand of 40,000+ as of today. We have corporate donors for most of our requirement, but as the demand for food is rising, we are now looking to feed 5000 people in next 10 days, which turns out to be 1,00,000 meals. Therefore we need to now raise a sum of Rs 25,00,000/- which is huge and we really need the support of more people.”

To raise the funds, initiative has come together with Efforts For Good and The Logical Indian to share this concern with our community members because as a citizen-driven movement, the initiative needs more and more people to come forward and a set a sum aside to keep the initiative going in its full glory so that there are no impediments coming in the way of feeding every mouth in these difficult times. Additionally, one can also contribute by sharing the word with friends and families. COVID 19 is difficult for all, the least we can do is to contribute so that the struggle to cope up with the pandemic does not add up to the struggle to cope up with hunger as well.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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