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A personal struggle inspired this elderly couple to start Balajothi Centre to empower disabled children

Frustrated by the lack of centres that could offer support for their disabled grandson, Balaraj and Teresa decided to start a centre of their own. Today, their venture Balajothi has three centres spread across Karnataka where 60 children with severe disabilities are supported.

Rahul was born with multiple disabilities including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism. His grandparents Balaraj and Teresa spent a lot of time looking for a centre where they could send him. Finally they found the Spastics Society of Karnataka where Rahul spent a a few years.

The struggle led the couple to realise the battles other families face to access therapies and other services under one roof and that led them to start the Balajothi Centre for the Disabled in Karnataka.

Today there are Balajothi centres in Bengaluru, Kolar and Mysuru.

At Spastics society, Rahul underwent intervention and therapies. Soon enough, we realised that we had to do something for children like him who are struggling to fit into a place. Their families faced many difficulties too. We empathised with them and decided to start a centre of our own. Rahul was our motivator. He keeps inspiring us to do things new things for children from disabled community. -Balaraj, Co-founder/Executive Director, Balajothi Centre for Disabled.

In the first year after their launch, Balajothi received support from Spastics Society of Karnataka. The society sent therapists and special educators to help Balaraj and Teresa run the centre smoothly. Then they started doing things on their own which was a struggle. But the smiling faces of children made it all worthwhile, says Balaraj.

"We tried to work on our deficiencies. Today, we provide food, therapies and other facilities to children with physical and intellectual disabilities who are from economically backward families. Even their transport to our centre is taken care of. Since most of the parents are struggling for a living, they cannot afford facilities for their disabled child", says Balaraj, who is 73 years old.

All their services are free of cost. With no government support, the couple are struggling to make ends meet. Thanks to generous donors and fundraising platforms, they are able to sustain themselves. That is how the centre also offers occupational and music therapies, physiotherapy and other services for the children.

"There are no caste, creed or religious differences here. The only criteria to be admitted at Balajothi is that the child must have severe disabilities, both physical and intellectual", adds Balaraj. There are 20 students each at their three centres and trained special educators ensure that children get the best training to do things independently.

"When we look back at our journey", says Teresa, "it has been great. We are satisfied that we could help many children with disabilities and their families too. All our children have poor understanding skills. They were not able to do things on their own. But after coming to our centre, we trained them to do things independently".

In spite of the many difficulties and obstacles on their path, Balaraj and Teresa are hopeful of reaching out to as many children as possible. Their journey is truly inspiring and motivating.

Contact Balajothi Centre for the Disabled at +91 93419-07162.

ALSO READ: GiftAbled, providing sustainable livelihood to disabled people

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