How it began at Society for the Visually Handicapped

The late Mr. Shyamal Data, founder of the Kolkata-based Society for the Visually Handicapped, had an eye for adventure. This is what led to the founding of the organization.

Following his love for adventure, he went on a Himalayan outdoor adventure camp along with his wife Anuradha Datta (who is also actively involved in the organization till date). On camp, Shyamal met a blind person who was confidently and enthusiastically trekking, in fact at the head of the group. This man’s enthusiasm was one of the things Shyamal took back with him as a learning from the camp. It is this learning that led him to think of his idea of encouraging people to volunteer for the blind people. When he shared the idea with his wife, she really liked the idea too.

In the early 80s, SVH started its operations. Initial ground work included research and building contacts. Shyamal started to approach his well-settled friends and speak to them about the idea. To support him, they began volunteering by promoting and gathering information about visually impaired people in their area. Slowly, their volunteering efforts saw results as many visually impaired children reached out to SVH.

In 1983, when Shyamal, Hena Basu, who was a reader at that time, and friends sat down to ideate, they decided it was time to move in a structured way and that’s when they officially registered the organization.

Shyamal’s residence was used as his first office which is still the registered office. Later on, it moved to a house owned by one of his friends. SVH used to conduct classes once in a week at this place where parents and visually impaired students used to assemble and discuss. Further needs, if any, were noted down and appropriate action then taken. SVH used to help these kids by giving them Braille books, teaching them to learn Braille, and provide them with readers and writers during exams.

As the work began to pick up pace, so did the contacts who were like-minded and willing to serve with commitment. This is how, through a contact, in 1990, Dr. Ruma Chatterjee, who is the present project director of the organization and Shyamal crossed paths. Dr. Chatterjee was working as a professor at Khiderpore College and during her free time, she started giving services to SVH.

SVH is slowly being an eye for these visually impaired individuals. Irrespective of the age group, it caters to all the needs these people have and makes sure they are treated equally and experience equal rights.

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