Samarthanam is all about providing opportunities to disabled people!
Samarthanam, an NGO that works towards the welfare of disabled people, has already carved a niche in India. Spread across six states in India with nearly 500 employees, Samarthanam has been providing vocational training and developmental initiatives for not only disabled people, but those from economically backward families as well.
Samarthanam was started in 1997 by Mahantesh G Kivadasannavar and Late Nagesh SP Samarthanam. The NGO has already won many national and international accolades.
Mahantesh, who is blind, has been currently heading Samarthanam. He has been lending a helping hand to thousands of disabled people to empower them and make them independent.
In the nineties, there were very few NGO's or centers that catered to disabled people. That is when we decided that we should do something for our community. We established Samarthanam. We had great support from our families too- says Mahantesh.
Samarthanam School provides education to disabled and underprivileged students till class 10. If they are interested to study further, the NGO provides all financial support too!
Tryst with Blind Cricket
Mahantesh is an all-rounder. Apart from empowering thousands of disabled people, Mahantesh is the proud torch bearer of the blind cricket of India. He is currently attending the India Sri Lanka bilateral blind cricket series in Colombo. Mahantesh is all smiles when he talks about his proud Indian cricket team!
He remembers how organizers were planning to shut down the blind cricket team in 2010 due to lack of funds and government support. Mahantesh was the captain of the team during that time!
I and Nagesh took over the blind cricket team from 2010 onwards. I'am glad that we did it! Now we have a bunch of efficient players who have won many trophies for India. The government of Karnataka has been of immense support. Haryana government has also agreed on a panel to promote blind cricket. We have always lacked government support and funds. This is definitely a new and welcome change"- says Mahantesh
The big wide world of opportunities
People with all kinds of disabilities are part of Samarthanam. They are empowered through various programmes. All of them are placed in banking sectors, insurance and IT companies post their training!
Samarthanam mainly aims to train disabled candidates in computers, English communication skills and other such activities. We identify beneficiaries and enroll them into our institutions. After three months of training, we place them with the best jobs- says, Chandrasekhar KN, Head of Livelihood Resource Centre of Samarthanam.
Samarthanam has government support to make things easier, faster and better. Finance is always a challenge. But the authorities at Samarthanam are glad that they have a bunch of supporters who stands by the NGO through thick and thin. The officials at this NGO face bigger challenges. The main one being lack of interest of disabled people to move out of their comfort zone!
In rural areas, we face a constant struggle of convincing parents to send their children for skill training. With candidates who are already trained and placed, they are unwilling to move to big cities for work. Our teachers and trained professionals take a lot of time and effort to teach each candidate- adds Chandrasekhar.
But he adds that things are getting slightly better now.
In the past few months, we had many parents, even from rural areas, coming forward to enroll their children with us. We are glad that the change is happening now!- smiles Chandrasekhar.
Victor John, who is the Proposal Advocacy Officer of Samarthanam has a similar opinion. "We do face a lot of challenges on a day to day basis. But the main one is, trying to reach out to disabled children", he says.
Apart from providing vocational training, Samarthanam also ensures that students take part in extracurricular activities to explore into the world of art and theatre!
Samarthanam plans to touch lives of more than 1 lakh disabled people by 2020. They are aiming for an inclusive society that is free from discrimination. Disabled people will become contributing members who live with dignity and respect.
Samarthanam offices across India are doing extremely well. They have already spread their wings to the United States of America and United Kingdom as well.
We believe in inclusion. Samarthanam is multi-dimensional and believes in holistic development of individuals. Disability is not a problem. It is a challenge. We must always look out for what we have. Everything else will fall in place- signs off Mahantesh.