India’s poverty hits many people, especially those who come to the country for the first time. It was no different for Ms. Sangeetha J.K., when she came to India (to Bangalore) as a nun with the Little Sister of Jesus.
This was back in 1972. She had come to the garden city of Bangalore from her home in Switzerland. A professional nurse, who had served many years with leprosy patients, she had come to the country to offer her services here. A few years later, while walking through the narrow labyrinths of Varanasi, where she was transferred, she was moved by what she saw. Many differently-abled people, uncared for, ridiculed and abandoned sat on the ghats (steps) of the holy river Ganga. She saw how they were living a life devoid of dignity and respect; and realised that they would only cared for in an institutional setup. However, the rules of her religious order didn’t allow her to run an institution.
In 1990, Sister Sangeetha met Mrs. Hema X, Director of the Bangalore-based Association for People with Disabilities (APD). In the X years of its existence, APD had already carved a name for itself in the field of disability care. She was truly inspired by Hema’s, who herself is a wheelchair user, work and dedication to the cause. So on the 15th of September, 1990, with minimum facilities, she set up KIRN Society to carry out her mission of helping people with disabilities too. The first KIRAN center was set up at Khristpanthi Ashram in Nagwa, a suburb of Varanasi.
KIRAN, which literally means “A Ray of Light” began giving care and education to children with disabilities. As she did so, she also focussed efforts on spreading word about the difficulties disabled people face. Her efforts lead to like-minded people from the city, which included doctors, lawyers, social activists and other intellectuals, lending their support to KIRAN too. With time, KIRAN grew immensely and Nagwa could no more contain it. So Sangeetha and the KIRAN family moved out to Madhopur village, 12 kilometers south of Varanasi city in 1998.
Till today, the KIRAN campus stands at Madhopur. Spread of X acres, it offers a host of services catering to disabled children. From physiotherapy, to the manufacture of prosthetics and limbs, to special education and vocational training – all activities that are catered towards preparing special children to lead an independent life. The organisation has grown tremendously over the years. Through the efforts of X staff and innumerable volunteers, 4,000 children, over the years, have benefitted from their services.