Disabled make podis and mix
Self-help group Tarang was formed by parents to help their children with disability live their days with pride and independence.
Express News Service
CHENNAI: Seated in a circle, Gokul, Saranya, Nithish, Koushik, and Kavin scoop out ladles of flour, measure their net weight, pack them in different covers and label them. While the young adults with disabilities work, their parents - Kamala, Latha Venkat, Preetha, Ganapathy, Manjula and Vijayagomathi - guide them and supervise the unit. This is the scene at Tarang, a five-year-old self-help vocational training group started by parents of children with disabilities.
“Except Kavin, our youngest, everyone else is above 20 years of age. Over the years, all five children have been part of different special schools and been trained in life skills and other vocational skills. But unfortunately, their integration into the mainstream society in terms of job opportunities hasn’t really taken off. As parents, we wanted to ensure their self-esteem is intact and that they become independent adults even when we aren’t around. So, Tarang was started,” shares Latha, co-founder of the initiative.
All the five members chanced upon one another through the Special Child Assistance Network (SCAN), a city-based parent support group for families with special children. “We used to meet at Mitr, an inclusive special needs café at Besant Nagar. When we started talking about our personal experiences and our plans for the future, we realised that we were all on the same page. Our ideas synced and we decided to flag Tarang,” shares Ganapathy, a former RBI employee.
Through tough times
But not everyone in the group has had the required familial support. The members of the group come from diverse backgrounds with different stories — on childcare, adversities and overcoming them. For instance, when Kamala’s son Gokul was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, her husband refused to support the family. “We separated and I started living at my parents’ house. I trained as a special educator and now, I have over two decades of experience. While taking care of my son, I also wanted to help other children with disabilities. Being a special educator gave me the chance to do that,” she shares.
For the future
At Tarang, the adults with disabilities along with their parents source ingredients, roast and grind them to make healthy, nutritious and tasty podis including atta, adai mix, dosa mix, aval puttu mix, aval payasam mix, kanji mix, bajji bonda mix, naatu chakkarai, and rice upma mix.“We also take catering orders. The proceeds from our sales are used to procure materials and ingredients for our other orders. The rest of the money is split equally among us. The money is given to our children as a stipend. This is an attempt to provide them with a livelihood,” explains Latha.
The parents beam with pride as they look at their children. “They have good skills. Some of them are even good at marketing the products. But sometimes, they might get distracted owing to their disability and at those times, they need to be given their space. With us around, they feel confident. Since they have started earning now, they feel a sense of accomplishment. They even use their money to treat their siblings or contribute for appliances for the house. Those are the little things that make them happy,” shares Latha. The group also makes paper bags, knits doormats and crafts decorative return gifts for thamboolam bags.
"I think more parents should come together and form such groups. The bigger idea is to take this forward as a community living. This way, we have each other’s back. The children also share an extraordinary camaraderie. They understand each other. In the end, isn’t that what we all need? Someone who understands us and our temperament?" says Latha.
The adults with disabilities make products such as kanji mix, bajji bonda mix, naatu chakkarai, rice upma mix, sambhar powder, rava laddoo mix, idli and paruppu podi and dhania rice podi.
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