Blind Welfare Council, Dahod has been set up by Mr. Yusufi Kapadia along with seven of his friends. Infact 8 of the organizations Trustees, including Mr. Yusufi Kapadia himself, are visually-impaired.
In 1980, Mr. Kapadia completed his standard 10 SSC examination. Infact, he was the first blind student in Dahod to give this examination. He also went on to become a graduate. Being blind himself, he was keen to do something for others like him. (He lost his eyesight at the age of 10 due to Retina Detachment, which first affected one eye, and shortly after, the second one too). That is what lead him to take up the role of Secretary at the National Association for the Blind (NAB).
NAB catered only to the visually-impaired and this was not an easily changeable criterion, due to the regulations concerned when setting up an organisation. Mr. Kapadia, on the other hand, was keen to do something for people with all kinds of disabilities – not just the blind. That’s why he decided to set up an organisation of his own, which would cater to all kinds of disabilities. So, he along with seven of his friends, set up Blind Welfare Council (BWC). They are all well-settled and working in other professions. Their contribution towards BWC comes out of their desire to help others like them overcome the hardships that they had to go through.
When setting up BWC, the team undertook a survey in Dahod and Panchmala districts. Through this survey, they had identified 6,000-7,000 people with disabilities. The first activity that BWC thus undertook was to get these people disability certificates (to help them avail of benefits from the Government, which are due to folks like them).
One of their other initial activities was the organisation of an Aids Appliances Camp, through which they gave people (identified from the same survey) hearing aids, calipers etc. Their next step was the introduction of IEDSS or inclusive education to disabled children. In collaboration with the Government of India, disabled children from standard 9 to 12 are educated. These children study in the normal schools of their own villages. BWC’s special teachers teach and train children as per the disability of the student. They also help them to get all kinds of governmental and non-governmental benefits.
In 2002, BWC ventured into Polio Reconstruction Surgery. As Mr. Kapadia shared with me, “Jo log theek ho sakte the, humne sochhca, unko to theek kar dete.” (Let’s improve the conditions of those whose could benefit through surgery.)
In 2003 came their next programme. Whilst providing education to children, they noticed that many teachers were quitting to go back to their own districts. This lead them to start a teacher training programme, in order to invest in human resources in the area itself. The introduction of this programme would have a two-fold advantage – it would give people jobs. And two, others would become aware of the disabled and consider working for them as a career alternative.
In 2004, Mr. Kapadia’s office and home were in the same building. The basement housed BWC’s office, the 1st floor the school, and the he lived on the 2nd floor. It was in 2004 that he decided to approach the collector for land. With the organisation’s activities expanding, it was time for a bigger office!
Initially, he was offered a plot of land that was rather far off from the city. But Mr. Kapadia insisted on a plot within the city and close to the railway station so that people (especially the physically disabled) would not face too many difficulties coming there. He paid Rs. 25 lakhs for the plot where BWC currently stands; and needed to do 7,000 blastings to level it! Whilst work on the new building progressed, so did the organisation’s activities. In 2006, permission for the multi-handicapped school was sanctioned.
In 2007 finally, the office moved out of Mr. Kapadia’s home. More space on hand meant the ability to introduce more programmes. And not surprisingly, with time, came a boys and girls hostel too. (GAIL India donated Rs. 42 lacs for the construction as well as infrastructure for the girls’ hostel).
The organisation still has further plans. They wish to set up a vocational training workshop, on the latter part of their three-acre campus. This workshop will be manned by people with disabilities themselves and will offer structured training to them in skills like sewing, basic computers, candle making etc. Says Mr. Yusufi, “This vocational training workshop is my ultimate wish for BWC.”