NGO Visit: An interesting time at NAB (National Association for the Blind)

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As part of GiveIndia’s initiative this year, it is now compulsory for all employees to have a quarterly visit to a non-profit/NGO – preferably one that GiveIndia is associated with. The whole point of this was to ensure people (i.e. GiveIndia employees) know that their work is really benefiting someone, and at the same time learn what the NGOs really do at the grass root level.
This article was written by our IT Product Manager, Chaitanya Dhareshwar – as a non-grass root person, this was his first visit to a GiveIndia Certified NGO.
Some background: Tarika is one of GiveIndia’s core team members, and she regularly visits NGOs to take photos/videos of the activities conducted. I chose to go with Tarika since I was not very comfortable approaching NGOs myself. I decided NAB (National Association for the Blind) was the best choice for me – it just ‘made sense’, as I’ve had eyesight problems as long as I’ve known.
So when I got to NAB (at Worli seaface) I was not really sure what to expect - whether it'll be something with blind people all over the place where I'd have to dodge them just to get around (a scene out of the movie Resident Evil played out in my head :)... Anyways I had 30 minutes to wait for our scheduled time (I reached at 9:30 and we were supposed to start our 'visit' @10), and Tarika wasn't there so I figured I'd look at the talking library and identify opportunities to utilize the next quarterly visit in doing some good.

They have this really nice 'studio' there, with one central room where they monitor the readers, and each small audition room with a really high quality microphone, set of Bose headsets, a computer screen (where instructions are displayed) and a large table. I had a voice test done, which basically involves reading a passage out of one of their selected books, and they figured my voice quality was good enough to bottle - so maybe next quarter I'll visit there 2-3 times and read out a whole book. Hopefully it won't be boring (so I won't yawn) and the will actually help someone 'read' their next book.

And then Tarika calls me, turns out I was in the wrong NAB centre all this time. Sigh.

So after getting to the correct NAB centre - the one attached to King George's, we began the actual visit. I was thoroughly impressed by the 'open' landscape and natural beauty of the place. Met the Director, Ms Pallavi Kadam, and had a brief discussion on what the centre attempts to accomplish, and where the donation (for the vocational training DO) is utilized. Also discussed about a call centre being setup and that they require technical assistance with some of it, so another opportunity (for me) to volunteer :)

Through this course, NAB attempts to:
- Create basic self-reliance and self-awareness in visually impaired people they work with (hereafter referred to as VIPs)
- Mobility and interaction training, basically help them move around, utilize regular facilities like train, bus, etc - and interact with people around them both VIPs and commoners
- Get them involved in Games for overall physical health as well as improved confidence in their mobility (including: football, track events, chess, ludo, playing cards, cricket [belled stumps pic attached], you name it they've got it!)

- This bit was the best I think - Self-defence training for the girls, taught by a blind lady, to help them be safe in a man's world!!
- Build a stable earning foundation for them so they don't depend upon others for almost anything

The course itself includes cookery, kitchen work, household work (washing, cleaning), braille, computer use.

Vocational training options include making of agrabattis, paper bags and decorative plastic bags, paper plates, key chains, also physiotherapy and clinical work (like BP checking, ultrasound). Many VIPs here come from rural areas and gain employment through NAB's vocational training in their home village. Over time as business picks up they're able to make a decent living. NAB also offers startup assistance for them, where raw materials are supplied (so they VIPs don't need to run around to the suppliers) for the initial setup.

While there I met one gentleman from the Merchant navy who had recently lost sight in both eyes due to an autoimmune disorder. His own immune system destroyed his optic nerves!! Apparently this had happened twice in the past but he was able to recover from it earlier, but this time the effect was permanent - he's barely able to make out bright blues, but otherwise it's a dark, dark world.

Made me sad to know he may never see again, and very grateful that I have my sight, and on our way out I enjoyed the splendid greenery a lot more.

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