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Saswati Singh's efforts to empower people with disabilities takes off as Nav Prerna Foundation

Saswati Singh started 'Inspiration', a school in New Delhi to empower children with disabilities. She later expanded her venture to Dehradun as 'Nav Prerna Foundation'. Saswati is truly an inspiration as her relentless efforts to help people with disabilities have empowered many.

For Saswati Singh, working towards empowering children with disabilities was something close to her heart. After her son was diagnosed with autism in childhood, Saswati decided to do her bit for the disabled community.

Saswati started off by founding the school Inspiration in New Delhi to empower children with all kinds of disabilities. After completing 10 years, she started India's first group home specifically geared for people with autism now known as Nav Prerna Foundation.

Saswati was working as a biology teacher with a leading school in New Delhi when her son was diagnosed with autism. Her efforts to admit him in a mainstream school were unsuccessful leading to the launch of Inspiration where kids like her son could get the best education. In 2005, she decided to expand her venture to the beautiful town of Dehradun where she now offers a residential programme for disabled children and adults.

When my son grew up, I knew he had to interact with adults who are like him. That is how the thought of starting Nav Prerna Foundation popped inside me. So Nav Prerna is more like an extension of Inspiration, but at Dehradun. We have set up the group home, apart from providing special schooling and vocational training. Our main vocational project is a bakery called Cafe Canopy where we provide healthy alternatives to baked goods, specifically gluten and casein free desserts. - Saswati Singh, Founder, Nav Prerna Foundation

Children from the age of two to adults who are 50 years and above are part of Nav Prerna Foundation. They all come together to experience new things and make the best out of life under Saswati's guidance. The Delhi centre has over 80 students with various kinds of disabilities whereas their Dehradun centre works with a limited number of people.

Saswati says awareness about disability has grown but there is still a long way to go. "Many families that I know, struggle with social support from friends and family and even accessing basic facilities for their children such as education. That is why I decided that starting a centre which engages and empowers parents and makes them a part of their child's journey was a necessity".

Over the years, Saswati has collaborated with many government officials and been instrumental in helping form many parent support groups across India. She says more people are coming forward with services to offer which is great.

"The earlier a child is diagnosed, the faster we can start therapies to help them lead an independent life. We must also understand that autism is not a disease that can be cured. It is a life-long condition which can be managed better over the years if accepted and worked on as soon as possible. It is a process that will take time. Hence, acceptance is important".

Over the years, Saswati has helped empower thousands of people with disabilities. That is precisely why everyone has only good reviews about what she has to offer. Like how Albin Mohammed and Sreepriya Menon says about the NGO. Both Mohammed and Menon who are students, had been a part of Nav Prerna for a few weeks for their internship programme.

"The difference at Nav Prerna is in the approach towards autism. They stress on well researched alternative approaches which are different from mainstream clinical and marketable interventions that causes so many side effects on kids. Also, Nav Prerna recommends all parents to be actively involved with the whole system allowing the caretakers as well as interested individuals including volunteers to learn about autism in a much more holistic sense", says Albin Mohammed.

"This is an excellent, empowering and warm place to learn and grow. The care and concern of the founders and the support required for all parents is admirable. Young folks looking to learn and train in rehabilitation work should definitely turn up and offer to intern here and support the organisation", says Sreepriya Menon.

CONTACT Nav Prerna Foundation at +91-9837721548.

ALSO READ: Karen Karbhari's Buddy Centre aims to teach life skills to disabled kids in Pune

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