Being a reader for the visually impaired

One of the interesting aspects of my visit to the NAB’s Worli office was my chance meeting with Soham Sen. A first year student at Symbiosis college at Pune, Soham was back home for the 2 month summer holidays. And unlike most teenagers his age, he’d decided that he would like to spend part of his holidays volunteering with a nonprofit organisation. After asking around within his networks, he learnt about the National Association for the Blind (NAB) through a friend’s friend who himself had volunteered with the organisation. And he now spends his holiday-afternoons helping Nalini, a visually-impaired student at NAB, with her studies.

English conjunctions in Grammar and Gene Formations in Biology were the topics for revision the day I met the two of them. Soham was patiently reading out the chapters, explaining the not-so-easy bits to Nalini in layman’s terms. Like a true school-teacher, he adeptly asked her questions through the session to ensure that she was truly grasping the content. Infact, this teaching method is contrary to the one that was being followed at Nalini’s school. At her school, questions were encouraged at the end of the classes – which made it more difficult for someone like Nalini to learn. Not only because her first language is X whilst the medium of teaching English but also because if she does not understand a concept, alot after that is missed out on too. Soham also understood that Nalini was suffering from X, which means that she can see better in natural/day light and can read white font on a black background better – and ensured that he used this to her advantage.

For someone who had never volunteered to help visually-impaired people – infact, he had never even interacted with one before – Soham displayed a great sense of maturity and patience in his interaction with Nalini. He truly understood why Nalini was lagging behind in her class and went out of his way to draw diagrams that would give Nalini a learning aid as he coached her. For an 18-year-old teenager to volunteer his time and ensure that his efforts are really impactful is commendable. Which is why I recognise Soham as one of the everyday heros I encounter as I visit GiveIndia’s 175 odd NGOs to better understand the work that they do.

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