Dr. Shyamlal Deb, the founder of Abhoy Mission, was born and brought up in Agartala. Since his childhood, he was actively involved in volunteering activities.
During his technical education back in Mumbai, he formed a Blood Donation Association along with a few of his colleagues and was also part of many political movements in the early 70s. After his education in Mumbai, he moved back to Agartala and worked with the government of Tripura for a few years after which he left his job and joined the family business.
“One day, a lady in her early 30s came to me with an issue. She was single, a teacher, and had been through domestic violence from her parents. Her parents used to pressurize her over many things. I listened to her but then forgot about the same. She kept coming back and the third time she asked us to do something for her and suggested that we start a small home for her and others like her. I consented. One of my friends gave me the land and shelter; she brought together ladies who were going through a similar situation. That is how the home was started. It was named as All Tripura SCST and Minority Upliftment Council. We attended to their needs like clothes, rations etc.,” explains Shyamlal.
In the year 1988, a child with special needs was born to Shyamlal. He didn’t know about the term ‘special need.’ He didn’t know where to go as Agartala didn’t have any facilities for treatment. He went to Mumbai to get himself acquainted with the information on special needs kids. He returned to Agartala and started to understand his kid better. “That was the most depressing period of my journey. I was lost. I didn’t want other parents in Agartala to go through what I did. I then rented a small house and informed all my contacts to identify kids with special needs. To my surprise, there were 35 of them. Few were mentally challenged; some had hearing disability, and some poor vision. We got all of them together. We conducted various activities and supported each other. Then, one day, through word of mouth, information on our training centre reached the National Institution of Mental Health. They agreed to help me, which led to the formation of Swabhalan School for Disabled Kids.”
Then slowly, they started to receive information about how kids were abandoned, few were found on the streets as babies. Police picked them up and handed them over to the organization. “There were cases when I didn’t know what to do with these kids given to us by the police. My friends then suggested that I start a regular house for these kids. Funds were not a major problem then because my family was very supportive. We had land in one of the villages 14 kms away from the city. We already constructed a small building there but it was unused. We then converted this to a home for the kids with disabilities and the old age house was also shifted here,” further adds Shyamlal.
In the year 1991, the governor of Tripura was invited to inaugurate the building. She was awestruck by the work they were doing and immediately asked them to get registered. “She mentioned that we rename it Abhoy, which means strength,” explains Shyamlal.
What just started as an old age home with five ladies now expanded to serve these kids and other poor old people in and around the villages of Tripura.