With financial independence being the goal, ‘Jai’ trains visually and physically disabled uneducated adults
Nagaraju, who is now 20 years, was born blind to a farmer in a small village in the Mahabubnagar district. After Nagaraju’s father got to know about the ‘Devnar School for the blind’ and with a hope for his son he took Nagaraju to the school for an admission. The school was not able to give admission to Nagaraju as he was already past the age to be given admission to any class.
The Devnar Foundation
The ‘Devnar Foundation’ is the largest institute and the first English medium school for the visually challenged in India. Devnar School provides free education, boarding, and lodging to visually challenged children. Alampur Saibaba Goud is the founder of this Foundation. Goud is a celebrated opthalmologist, who has been conferred with many awards.
Grishma, Goud’s daughter, tells us that her parents often felt that they had to say no to many people who came only because age was a factor and schooling would not help much in these cases. The desire to bring about a change in the lives of these children kept burning and hence ‘Jai’ was established. Jai is a non-profit organization that provides vocational training for the uneducated adult who is visually or physically handicapped. The aim is to encourage financial independence.
How do they do it?
Grishma says, “I am a second-generation NGO activist. We had a lot of admission enquires for visually challenged aged above 20 years. Our foundation’s motto is ‘Blind need opportunity not sympathy’. We could not admit these adults(who were over a certain age) to the school. We thought about what we could do for these people and came up with a sustainable solution. We started giving them vocational training to make candles and files.”The visually and physically impaired were initially trained to make files and candles and now their skillset is being widened with training to make paper cups, plates and bags, all of which are absolutely eco-friendly.CAF India has supported ‘Jai’ by buying the required machinery.
Nagaraju didn’t get admission to school but works with ‘Jai’ today. He earns Rs 3000 per month and feels great about his financial independence. It’s not just about financial independence but also about self-confidence and self-esteem. Nagaraju tells us about how his life has changed, “My family members used to be very worried about me because of my disability. I’m happy that I’m now trained and can earn money. I now feel equal in the society.”
Jai is run by Grishma, who is a dental surgeon by profession. She tells us about how the name came about, “Jai comes from my mother’s name (‘J’ from Jyothi) and father’s name. (‘ai’ from Sai baba).”
Target audience, revenue model, and challenges
Grishma says that initially, she would sell products as gifts and disposables in her parent’s and her social circles. With time, she decided to scale-up with the aim of giving a larger disabled population a better life. Today, Apollo, Secunderabad Club, Godrej, Lucid diagnostics, etc., are all their customers.
Grishma says that ‘Jai’ makes 35–40 Lakhs per annum. She adds, “It has grown 30% from the first year. Our main revenue source is only though sales and it’s a very narrow margin.”As for any other startup, funds are a challenge. Another challenge they face is training novices after experienced people leave. Grishma cites the biggest challenge as getting contracts, she tells us, “We do get a lot of contracts from corporates because they can link their CSR activities to this, but since the middle men who handle the buying don’t get their share from us they complain about us and encourage the corporates to stop our contract.”
Her dream for the blind population
Grishma is presently working on a new project ‘Mission to Vision’, which aims to raise awareness about preventable blindness. She is organising a walk on October 4 on ‘World Sight Day’ to raise awareness about preventable and curable blindness. On a parting note, she throws light on some facts about blindness,
80% of vision impairment is actually preventable and curable! Just by administering a few drops of vitamin A syrup, blindness can be prevented in children and just by a 20-min operation an adult can restore his sight. There are 285 million people with vision impairment and 80% of them don’t have to be.