Bengaluru: For 39-year-old Rohini Abigail, the change from just being a mother of two to something more meaningful came suddenly.
In 2013, she had rushed to the city from Dhaka to take care of her mother, who was diagnosed with-end stage breast cancer. Her mother, Daya Martin, was no ordinary woman either. She was running a school, Nireekshana, for the mentally challenged with all her life's savings. The school took care of these children and helped them learn.
But, the sudden diagnosis of cancer changed it all. “She had done an excellent job with the school and even the cancer diagnosis camouflaged with bronchitis did not pull her down. She said she will fight it out and come back strong. Sadly, by then the cancer had spread everywhere and touched the liver as well," remembers Rohini, who back then had left her two children with her husband to take care of her mother.
“After she passed away, I was left with the toughest decision of my life. Whether to run the school and continue my mother's dreams or to close it down and go back to my family and marriage,” she says.
Instead, the strong willed Rohini hired a caretaker to run the school for a few weeks, went back to Dhaka and broke the news to her husband and in-laws that she wanted to continue her mother's dream.
“The news was not exactly received properly by anyone. Everyone wanted me to shut the school and go back. I don't know, I just couldn't shut it down," she says. Despite the opposition, Rohini came back to the city with her two children. Since 2014, she has been running the school single handedly, and the toughest part has been to raise funds for the school. “Donations are not easy to come by. Whenever people hear of mental retardation, they just don’t come forward to help. Mobilising funds has always been tough. Luckily, those who know about the school are always willing to come help. The parents of these kids too pitch in. The smile on the faces of these children is what drives me to keep the school running,” she says.
The name of the school has since been changed to S.M. Foundation Nireekshana to attract more funds. The school houses 30 children who are 4-18 years old. They are educated and trained. “Most of the children we pick up are not clean.
After we get them here in our van, we clean them and teach them to brush. Generally, the older kids are proactive and take the lead in teaching the young ones," she says.
Apart from well wishers, a local church donates her Rs 10,000 every month. Also, corporate social responsibility initiatives of various companies in the city and volunteers from various schools too help, making things a little easier.
“Every day is a miracle,” she says.
“More than donations, we are being helped a lot by college students, who come in as volunteers. The school organises dance and music classes after lunch, apart from various physical activities,” she says.
Her dream, however, is to open a small canteen in a plot of land bought by her mother to help these children. “I want to open a canteen or something where these children can be empowered to make a living on their own, as outside they are mostly mistreated as society is yet to be sensitive to their needs,” she sums up.