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It's society that comes up with so many obstacles in the way of the disabled. Their attitudes relate to them differently. That the disabled have an ability to perform certain tasks is totally ignored, because society sees disability as a whole. It's mainly ignorance that they see them as people unable and useless. How wrong can one get?

Ten parents pooled their time, money and resources to start a multiple activity unit in July 2001. Quite appropriately named "SAATH-SAATH", meaning Hand-in-Hand, in this workshop, parents and their children, with help of volunteers join together and make quite an array of products, handcrafted by these challenged individuals who cannot be placed in open employment.

Kavitha Sharma"The idea to start this unit was when we found we couldn't get our children placed anywhere after they completed their academic and vocational training," explains Mrs. Kavitha Sharma, mother of 2 children with Autism. Suggestions from various quarters came in and that motivated them to start this workshop. "We were a small group of mothers, each contributed 1000 rupees towards capital and set up this unit in the premises of the Spastics Society of Karnataka. Gradually, our products began to sell and today, many corporate buyers come to us for various products," says Asha, whose daughter has Down syndrome and is a part of the workshop group.

It's almost like an assembly line, except that there are no machines. Over a dozen parents, their children and volunteers can be found cutting, folding, pasting and screen printing, meticulously decorating a colourful range of handicrafts such as writing stationery, shopping bags, wine bottle bags, greeting cards, gift wrapping paper, conference folders and what have you. They also make a range of wax products such as conical candles, spiral candles and wax filled diyas, most popular during festival times.

WorkshopThe children who work on these products have varying degrees of physical and mental retardation. But each of them is capable of contributing in some way or the other. "We divide the work among the children, who can do what. If you see the products made here, 3 or 4 children would have been involved in it's making," says Mrs. Sharma. "The gift wrappers for example, these have some 90% contribution from the children," she adds. Quality is paramount in the finished products. "The most difficult part of each product is handled by either a parent or a volunteer, the rest is completely done by these children. The idea is to get customers come back again for buying these products for it's quality and not a 'sympathy buy'," says Mrs. Sharma.

Smith, Kline and Beecham Pharmaceuticals provided the basic infrastructure, which comprises of a spacious and well-ventilated building where the activity is carried out. For the moment, The Tata Trust provides the financial backup and pay stipends to the children and volunteers. "We are trying to improve our market and we are hopeful that we should be profit generating soon."

There's a message board that displays a slogan as one enters the Workshop building. It says, "Please appreciate their strengths and help them boost their self-esteem." The able-bodied society ought to understand this message, which simply put means, "Don't put obstacles in their way! Provide them with opportunities, instead." Never deprive someone of hope - it may be all they have.

Give them their rights...
They can! if given a chance...
Spastics Society of Karnataka...
"He's extremely brilliant"...
They make it happen...
Help boost their self-esteem...
Grounded in reality...
Making a point or two...
What's it like as a parent...

"For me it's a Mission..."
Meet Mrs. Rukmini Krishnaswamy
Director, The Spastics Society of Karnataka

The Sheltered Workshop (SAATH-SAATH) Unit and the Vocational Training Unit at the Spastics Society of Karnataka have some very interesting products that can make ideal gifts. At these units disabled children can be seen cutting, folding, pasting handmade paper into elegant bags, cards, conference folders, gift wrapping paper and things like that. They also make a wide range of candles and diyas, terracotta pots, Ganesha idols, candle stands, etc.
If you buy these products, not only are you helping these kids earn some money but also boosting their confidence and self-esteem. These children are extremely creative but because of their disability, they cannot find placement in an open employment.
Take a look at some of the products they can make. Should you require anything specific or anything you want custom-made, get in touch with them at the Spastics Society of Karnataka. They'll be glad to meet you.

Buy from a range of interesting products made by Spastic children.


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