Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled

Karnataka’s most far-reaching organization for the visually-impaired

Don’t be deceived by the quiet bungalow in Bangalore’s J P Nagar that houses the Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled’s main office. It’s a hub of activity as you’ll learn as you walk inside. In one room, we saw a bunch of youth at their computers, in another a troupe of dancers were practicing their routine, and a classroom session was on in another. While this seems like a usual college, it isn’t. What’s makes it different is that most of the students here are visually-impaired; all have some form of disability. In addition, they all hail from economically poor backgrounds.

Set up in 1997, Samarthanam’s mission is to create “an inclusive society, free of discrimination against the disabled, where people with disabilities, especially the visually impaired, enjoy equal opportunities and an enhanced quality of life.

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How it all began

Mahantesh GK is the man behind Samarthanam. In 1997, with Rs. 45,000 that he received as an M.Phil scholarship, he along with another visually impaired friend co-founded the organization. Himself visually-impaired, his motivation to set up the organization clearly steps from his own personal story. “I was born in the farming village of Sisiri in Belgaum district,” he says. “A few months before I was born, my 30-member joint family started decorating the house, sculpting wooden birds and clay toys and painting clay lamps in preparation for my birth. As I was the first child of my generation, lots of hopes were pinned on me.”

But at the age of two, his family started noticing that their son couldn’t see. It was because of a bout of typhoid that his eyesight was failing; but the village doctors were unable to diagnose the same.

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A glimpse into the lives changed

Of the 100s of lives that Samarthanam has changed, it is the story of Rajani that stands out the most. Rajani Gopal Krishna is the first visually challenged woman to have qualified as a Charted Accountant. While her achievements demonstrate how with determination and perseverance, no obstacle is insurmountable, they also throw light on the impact of Samarthanam.

Rajani was born no different than other children – very active and with normal eye sight. One day, at the age of nine, she returned from school with a high fever. So high was it that she needed to be admitted to hospital.

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Volunteering Opportunities

Volunteer at their recording studio. This is a fairly tedious but really helpful volunteering assignment. You can either lend your voice and read out books that would be recorded. Else, scan books, which are then converted into JAWS accessible books that the blind can then access.

You can also visit their site to learn about their latest volunteering opportunities.

Recognition

  • Governor’s award for Excellence from the Government of Karnataka, 2002
  •  The India NGO Award, 2006

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