As I walked into building where Disha Foundation is located, I was greeted with a traditional welcome ceremony by a young boy, who seemed just delighted to meet me ! I later learnt that he has Cerebral palsy. Post the warm welcome, I was taken into the central building. Resembling an arena, the building is bright and open. It was far from the care home I had imagined and instead there was laughing and shouting as children whizzed around on roller skates and joyfully played volleyball.
The main focus for Disha is “the inclusion of every child.” Their work revolves around three ‘centres’. The first focuses on special education. Comprising of 150 students aged between 3-30 years, the center caters to a wide range of disabilities including Down’s Syndrome, Autism and Cerebral Palsy. .
Disha Foundation was established in March 1995 by Mrs. P.N. Kavoori, who was a teacher at and then principal of a mainstream school for 40 years. During these four decades, she witnessed children with disabilities and the obstacles they faced. She says, “I had been principal of Sawai Mansigh Mahavidyalay , Rajasthan. I used to be very unhappy, very upset, that children who can already grasp on their own, I’m taking them ahead and I’m leaving behind those who really need me.” Further, even when they were admitted, schools were not properly equipped to meet the child’s needs. Moreover, she always felt that she shared an ‘emotional bond’with the disabled but had no expert knowledge, simply a drive, to help them .
Disha Foundation welcomes volunteers but is in need of those who are specifically trained to work with the disabled. They are more than happy to take on students who are studying to work with the disabled and provide them with experience. During my visit, I met a group of six students from Boston, USA who were volunteering at Disha; these were Occupational Therapy students. Disha welcomes special educators, clinical psychologists, speech therapists or any trained professionals wanting to help in any way.
Rewards and Recognition
• In 2002, Disha Foundation received recognition from the Rehabilitation Council of India
• In 2005 and again in 2009, Disha Foundation received an award from FORHEX, which is the Federation of Rajasthan Handicraft Exporters, Jaipur