07 Dec

Seva Setu’s work for the differently able (Part III)

This is the third post in the series on disability. In this post, we have highlighted the ambiguity and stigma associated with mental illness.

Of all the disabilities we surveyed, mental illness is by far the most complex one. The problem begins with the reluctance of families in accepting the existence of this problem in their kith and kin. They think of it as a matter of shame for the family and hide the affected from society. As a result, identifying the mentally ill itself becomes a challenge. As per our survey, only 1 in 20 differently abled is mentally ill, which we believe is much less than the actual number of mentally ill people in these areas.

Unlike other disabilities, mental illness is not something which can be determined by the mere physical appearance of a person. One needs to be trained in human psychology to conclude if a person suffers from any mental illness. Although we have the Indian Disability Evaluation and Assessment Scale (IDEAS), a scale for measuring and quantifying disability and mental disorders, ambiguity remains. There’s no popular debate regarding this issue which is attracting the collective conscience of the masses.

A dialogue from the recently released “Dear Zindagi”, a movie which aptly highlighted the nuances of mental illness, sums up the stigma associated with mental disorders. Shahrukh Khan, who plays the role of a psychiatrist in the movie, quotes, “We openly talk about every physical problem, be it related to eyes, ear, throat, stomach, legs or any other part. However, when it comes to the brain, we behave as though we don’t consider it to be a part of our body.”

The most important prerequisite to addressing any problem is the very acceptance of that problem. The ignorant attitude towards mental illness has to be changed if we want any progress in this field. We are trying our level best to educate the villagers on mental illness and encourage them to discuss these issues openly.

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05 Dec

Seva Setu’s work for the differently able (Part II)

This is the second post of the series on disability that Seva Setu will publish this week.

Challenges are inevitable in any journey and social service is no exception. We face hurdles and obstacles on a daily basis. Again kudos to our field team who never let the continuity break regardless of the hurdles they face. One of our main challenges is to garner trust among the villagers. They are always skeptical of a possible hidden agenda when we reach out to them the first time. This is made worse by the fact that we don’t charge money for any of our services. This skepticism is reinforced by the fact that most of these villagers are already victims of charlatans who’ve posed as NGOs and have fleeced them of their money. As a consequence, instilling trust towards our organization and to make them believe that we are there for a specific, constructive purpose is not an easy task.

The second challenge we face is a lack of awareness among villagers. Sometimes they are even reluctant to acknowledge their own rights. They exhibit little or no interest in getting things done. They make excuses or avoid our calls when we try to reach out to them. We have to persuade them to cooperate in each step of the process to avail benefits. Their attitude is a killjoy for our field employees but at the end of the day, we remind ourselves that it is a lack of solid primary education causing this.

Another challenge we face is when we have to apply for a PH certificate of a person who is severely handicapped and is unable to move. Since the presence of the differently abled is mandatory while applying for a certificate, we find it very difficult to get them along to the center where these certificates are processed. Ideally, the government should arrange an ambulance for such people, which we believe is still a distant dream. In these cases, Seva Setu arranges a reserved auto-rickshaw for handicaps. With the assistance of our volunteers, they are carried to the center to apply for their certificates.

In spite of these challenges, we remain firm in our commitment to ensuring pension benefits to each and every differently abled we have surveyed or will survey in future.

In the next post of the series, we will be sharing the complexities and stigma associated with mental illness that we witnessed while working for the differently abled.

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03 Dec

Seva Setu’s work for the differently able (Part I)

3rd December is celebrated each year as the international day for the differently abled. We want to take this opportunity to share the work we have done for the differently able in the last three months. This is the first of a series of posts that we will publish on this issue.

We chose three districts of Bihar – Patna, Vaishali and Champaran as our area of work and worked towards facilitating disability pension benefits to as many differently abled as we could work with. We first identified the differently abled by conducting surveys across villages in these districts. Over these three months, we have collected details of more than 1,300 differently abled people in these areas. Out of these, around 55% people were not having any Physically Handicapped (PH) certificate – which is a must to avail any government sponsored benefits. Our first objective was to ensure all eligible candidates received their PH certificates. We have gotten 115 of them to apply for these certificates. Of these 115, 78 people have collected their PH certificates – which means they can now avail government benefits. Of these 78 people who have collected their PH certificate, we have 32 people who have applied for a pension certificate. Of these 32 people, names of 7 people have been included in the pension list of their respective villages.

Considering the tedious government procedures and lethargic approach by the differently abled themselves, we appreciate the patience and perseverance of our on-field volunteers. Our volunteers are the backbone of Seva Setu and these numbers fail to reflect the amount of effort put in by them.

In the next post of the series we will be sharing the challenges and hurdles faced by Seva Setu while working for the differently able.

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01 Dec

National Skill Development Scheme | Training on Sewing and Stitching

The burgeoning population has always been considered as a bane for our country. It is assumed as the primary hurdle in any development process. And the reason behind this is that majority of our population is still unskilled and uneducated. Conclusively, population, instead of being an asset ends up being a liability for the country.

National Skill Development Scheme is one of the policies which has the potential to change the face of our country. This scheme stresses on enriching the population with skills which can enable them to live a dignified life. While we appreciate the noble endeavor of our government, we also encountered certain flaws in the scheme. The government is working towards improving these flaws. Currently, this scheme works in a centralized manner where the trainer, training institutes, etc. are provided and controlled by the government. This approach might have worked had we been a developed country. But unfortunately, we lack infrastructures and the required pre-requisites for the implementation of this scheme on such a large scale. The government resources are not enough to train a huge number of people within the stipulated time.

Seva Setu believes that the involvement of the community is inevitable if we are to make such schemes successful. The government may act as a facilitator and let the community take the process forward. This can be a more tangible model in the long run. With this principle in mind, we started our sewing training program. Under this program, we visit local communities, locate a skilled trainer (usually we always find one within the community itself), canvass potential trainees and after a few rounds of discussion, we agree on a convenient place within the community itself to launch the sewing training center. We provide Rs. 7,000 as the seed capital (The cost of Sewing Machine + Accessories Cost)

We are pleased to announce that we have completed another batch of our sewing training program. Certificates have been distributed on 26/11/2016 to all the 15 students who were trained for 3 months under our trainer Janki Ji. With the completion of this batch, the total number of students who have been trained under this initiative has reached 355. But Seva Setu’s role doesn’t end with the completion of 3 months of training and distribution of the certificates. We try to connect these young girls/women to wholesalers and retailers who buy stitched petticoat and blouses. We make sure that they are able to use their newly acquired skill to earn money.

While discussing with the students during the certificate distribution ceremony, we observed a great difference in the confidence level of most of the girls/ women. Since the majority of them were housewives, they were accustomed to household chores and restricted themselves throughout their life. For the first time, they were feeling that they can contribute to their family in terms of money as well. Though boosting their confidence level isn’t the direct outcome of our initiative but we genuinely believe that it will help them taking a stand for themselves in the future.

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