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At the Tarang workshop, disabled youth get creative & independent

September 13, 2018

At the Tarang workshop, the festive season has arrived early. The tables are laden with decorative items and colourful gift bags that the people working here are putting together.

In another corner, there is a group occupied with cutting vegetables, while another is preparing food mixes. There is an air of quiet absorption as everyone goes about their set activities for the day.

Located in a Chennai suburb, Tarang is self-help group of disabled youth who are trained in vocational skills to make different products. The initiative was started by a group of parents with the aim of encouraging young disabled adults to become independent in every way.

Most of the youth here are between the ages of 22 to 35 years with a range of disabilities like autism and Down syndrome. Some are slow learners. Many of them come here from special schools where they have acquired some experience making these products.

At Tarang they work full-time, Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4.30 pm. Their payment comes from the proceeds earned.

They do a range of activities, like preparing aata, food mixes, to weaving mats and towels, and making paper and jute bags. The products are marketed by the parents themselves amongst their families and friends. Of late we have started selling our products in some retail stores in the city. - Latha Venkatesan, Co-founder, Tarang

The bonding among the youth is evident and the credit for that goes to the founders, who have ensured that it's not all about work. There is time taken out for some fun as well, like yoga, gardening, and sports.

Ganapathy, whose son Koushik is at Tarang, says working here has equipped him with a sense of confidence and pride.

"He feels he is empowered financially as well and proud about it. He has developed social interaction with other parents, volunteers as well as customers."

This unique parent-led model of self-employment is giving disabled youth a chance to show their creative skills and be self-sufficient as well.

In Venkatesan's words, "Each of them takes pride in taking home a salary and contributing to their household."

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