Chennai: C Govindakrishnan, founder of Nethrodaya, has been sharing light to many who do not have sight. Though visually-impaired, he has been serving others with the same problem and differently-abled people for the last 16 years through his organisation at Mugappair West.
Nethrodaya was his dream-come-true project which became a reality on 2 October 2002 (Gandhi Jayanthi).
Excerpts of his interview:
Q: What is so unique about Nethrodaya?
A: Nethrodaya is an institution serving for the welfare of differently-abled people more particularly for the visually impaired. Our institution makes sure that there is no difficulties, challenges and hindrances for our people by providing user-friendly environment in terms of their study materials and also by bringing resource persons and special educators. We do not want our differently-abled children to feel low, we want them to be treated as equals. That’s the basic idea. We do not want people to sympathise us, we too can deliver, we have potentials to unleash and no one can really prevent our growth and performance.
Q: What made you start an organisation like Nethrodaya?
A: My heart goes out to people who are differently-abled especially, the visually challenged because of my impaired eyes. I strongly believe that I should reach out for more and more people like me in this birth. Since, I am born as a disabled, I want to do justice to my people. Although, I was worried and viewed my disability as a curse and as a worrying factor in the beginning but now I see it as a blessing or as a gift. The idea of starting Nethrodaya dawned in my mind when I happened to become a witness to the everyday sufferings of the visually impaired college students and unemployed youth in Chennai.
Q: What are exclusive amenities that are available here?
A: We have fixed Tactile pavers in our boys and girls dormitory area to facilitate our visually impaired children to identify the different bedrooms from bathrooms. We have installed cooling tiles in our terrace to prevent students getting their feet burned in the hot sun, when they want to dry or take their clothes. In the girls bathroom, we are going to fix a censor that would make a beeping or alarming sound when someone tries to take video while our girls are bathing.
Their safety comes first and we want to ensure a safe space for all our girls. We have installed Sanitary Napkin destroyer machine in the girls bathroom to ensure their hygiene and health. We are about to build a new auditorium in our terrace for conducting functions and celebrations for our children and the disabled because marriage halls are very expensive.
Q: What is your inspiration and your support system?
A: My impairment is my inspiration; it has given me a lot of courage and determination to move forward and it encourages me to do more and more good service for my community. My family members are the ones who are running the show. We don’t believe in helping because it puts you down so we believe in our commitments and duties.
Q: As an organisation, what is the hardship you face?
A: We have difficulties in paying salary for the resource people. It is saddening that some people think that, differently-abled people only need some food, clothes and blankets. They fail to understand that we have our own dreams, desires and responsibilities to be fulfilled. We are differently-abled, not disabled. We also need equal opportunities as others and a life to enjoy things because we deserve it.
Article by Akshya Ramesh