Nation Current Affairs 02 Jun 2018 Chennai: Empowering ...

Chennai: Empowering those with cognitive difficulties

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | DEBANJOLI NANDI
Published Jun 2, 2018, 3:47 am IST
Updated Jun 2, 2018, 3:47 am IST
But could hardly make any friends and travelling alone was a challenge.
Ankit and Vijay Sarathy at Hotel Savera.
 Ankit and Vijay Sarathy at Hotel Savera.

Chennai: Chandramouli was academically brilliant, remarkably known for his photographic memory, which is believed to have contributed to his above 90 per cent marks at the board exams.

But could hardly make any friends and travelling alone was a challenge. Excellent board results encouraged him to take up engineering, things were going smooth. The setback came right after the third semester. “His main difficulty was in understanding concepts. Engineering is a technical course. Maybe his extraordinary memorizing skill got him through the initial levels, but it was not just helping him anymore,” said S Ramadoss , Chandramouli’s father. Chandramouli could not make it past 4th semester. Mounting pressure from college forced him out of academics.

 

Cut to eight years later. He no longer perceives himself as a ‘burden.’ Travelling alone is no longer a big deal.  Ankit’s area of difficulty was different. He would lag where application of mind was required. As long as it involved a routine work, he would be at ease. “If he is 12 years old, his mind is still functioning like that of an 8-year-old. He would often get fits. Plus he had some other health issues,” said Ankit’s brother Ravi Bhootra.

The child who once had to be taken off from regular school at a stage as early as 2nd standard, is now doing perfectly fine in the “regular” world.  For both Chandramouli and Ankit Bhootra, city-based organisation V-excel Educational Trust has been giving new lease of life to people with cognitive difficulties.

 

Today Ankit is a part of Chennai’s iconic Savera hotel, working with the front-office team.  “Our motto was to make these people contributing members of the society. They need help to meet their potential and they should do something which culminates in something productive,” says Vasudha Prakash, founder-trustee of the organization.

There are challenges in seeking employability of special people, Vasudha said.The organisation today has 650-700 students across all branches ( Srirangam, Nasik, Chholapur, Tirunelveli, Erode) and has placed 15 students placed so far, eight in 2017-18 alone.

 

“We do have a lot of activities that help activate mind and body. Once the students reach a certain point, the foundation course begins, in which they are retaught independent living skills: from combing, dressing appropriately to functional academics- all basics basically,” she said.

Foundation course is followed by vocation course, Youth Empowerment Services, at the Mylapore centre. Students are imbued with office skills, including answering phone calls, passing messages, doing photocopy, printing, cutting paper, documenting, spiral-binding.

 

“Besides, we have a bakery section where they help make smoothies, cookies etc and we have them delivered to the offices near the Mylapore centre. Students also get to try their hands at laundry, for which they get paid.  After they go through all three years of training, they are accounted fit for placement,” says Vasudha, who is also a psychotherapist.

Now what if someone is still not found eligible?”Not to lose heart. We have sheltered workshop where we get a lot of orders. They work within our organization,” she said. On parents worrying what will become of their kids when they are gone, Vasudha says, “We have an overnight camp where kids are made to stay overnight and it lasts for two to three days. That way they learn to manage on their own.”

 

Now what are the employers saying? B. Radhish Kumar, General Manager, HR & Admin, Savera group suggests more businesses should come forward. “We have not appointed them as employee though. They have been taken as children on a minimum stipend for six months, after which they might be taken as a management or operational trainee. We prefer to keep them off kitchen as we do not want them near fire,” he said.  Rajagopal P, managing director, Sangeetha Veg Restaurants (P) Ltd, has also created job opportunity for two such people.

 

“They are so good at their work that other staff get motivated. They are on cordial terms with one another.  More people should come forward for this kind of causes,” he said.

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