GUWAHATI, Aug 5 - With an increasing number of its mentally challenged and autistic students completing their functional academics, Sahayika, an NGO working in the field of disability, has started vocational training programmes to open livelihood opportunities for such students.
With a long-term plan to revive its skill training imparting centre at Lankeshwar in the city, the NGO has also entered into a tie-up with the Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE) and some corporate houses to find a market for the handloom and handicraft items made by its students.
�Creating livelihood opportunities for the mentally challenged is still a very challenging task. Even after they complete their functional education of 15 years on an average, it is difficult for such special children, to find a decent means of livelihood. To fully integrate them into the society, we need to train them to become self-dependent,� director of Sahayika Ipshita Sarma told The Assam Tribune.
At present Sahayika is training 20 such intellectually challenged, autistic and hearing impaired persons in the 15-30-year age group. Training is offered to mild to moderate intellectually challenged persons as well as persons with hearing impairment.
Some of Sahayika�s ventures are already being supported by corporate houses like Marico and Maruti Suzuki.
The purpose of imparting special education to the persons with disabilities is all but defeated unless such people are integrated to the society and get a decent living. Despite new policies for persons with disabilities, unfortunately the question of rehabilitation is still not properly addressed, making it difficult for the differently able persons to find jobs or start any business on their own.
�Though we have started vocational training of artificial flower making and incense sticks (agarbatti) making on our Bamunimaidam campus, with growing number of such students, we will have to shift to a full-fledged training centre with necessary infrastructure,� Sarma said.
The NGO has also approached the State government as well as some corporate houses for a collaborative venture to restart its training centre in Lankeshwar that was closed down due to fund crunch in 2007.
�The land for this centre was given by the State government and we also received a financial grant from the MPLAD fund of veteran writer and Member of Parliament Kuldeep Nayar way back in 1998. However, now we want to revive the centre with inclusive opportunities for both the special children and locals residing in the vicinity to get vocational training like screen painting, packaging, handloom and carpentry etc.
�We will be holding sheltered workshops for the persons with disabilities, where our trainers would assist them in the finishing of the products. Such products would be marketed to those corporate houses interested in CSR activities in the field of disability. The net profit gained through this venture would be divided among them," she added.