Located in a quiet lane in Cox Town, Bangalore, Snehadeep—‘Lamp of Love’—is home to some 60 young people from across Karnataka. Being visually challenged hasn’t deterred these boys and girls from pursuing an education and seeking to be economically independent. That’s what Snehadeep is helping them with. It offers them valuable skills needed for jobs, plus plenty of love and fun in a cheerful home away from home, as I discovered when I dropped in there the other day.
It’s just after lunch, but the computer room is already full, with a batch of students clicking away at their computers. “We are teaching them a programme called JAWS—Jaws Access With Speech,” says Shivaji, the computer instructor, who is himself visually-challenged. He explains how JAWS works: it converts each letter or word that you type into a sound, which is pronounced by the computer, so that if you cannot see what you have typed, you can hear it. The software even enables you to listen to email messages!
Besides learning how to handle computers, in the one-year free-of-cost residential skill-development programme that Snehadeep offers for the blind, students also brush up their English. Farhana, who is herself visually-challenged, recently joined Snehadeep as an English instructor. “We try to make English-learning fun,” she says. “So, in addition to vocabulary, pronunciation and sentence construction, we try to bring in a lot of games and interaction so that the learning becomes exciting!”
Many of the young people at Snehadeep are graduates, explains Arun, a volunteer, and Snehadeep tries to arrange for jobs for them once they’ve finished their one-year stint. Some of them, he tells me, have got jobs in banks, and others in private companies. “They need English, knowledge of computers and good social skills for that, and we try to provide them that,” he says.“They all want to stand on their feet, and contribute to society,” he explains, following in the footsteps of the three remarkable founders of Snehadeep who are themselves visually-challenged—Paul Muddha (Canara Bank manager), KG Mohan (State Bank of India employee), and S Gargeya (holder of four Master’s degrees and Labour Inspector).
“We welcome volunteers to come over and share time with us,” Arun tells me as he takes me around. Some people drop in to read to the students or just chat and have fun with them. Others help out with cultural events and eye camps. Occasionally, people come over to share things: provisions, stationery or old magazines and newspapers, which are used for making Braille notes. Sometimes, families celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with the Snehadeep family, sharing their joy with them in a special way.
You could do something like that, too, if you like!
For more information about Snehadeep and how you could help out, see www.snehadeep.org.in
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