The fourth edition of Abilities Mela is on at TDM Hall

Preserves, pickles, paper flowers, costume jewellery , paper bags, foot mats, spiral bound notebooks…an impressive collection of handcrafted items were on display at the fourth edition of the Abilities Mela in Kochi.

The Mela is an attempt to impart a sense of achievement and self reliance in differently-abled children. As Sr. Sangeeta of Snehanilayam Sheltered Workshop says, “The amount doesn’t matter but at the end of the day when these children get the stipend, ‘shambalam’ as they call it, they feel very proud.”

Satish and Aby, students at the vocational unit, sit by listening as Sr. Sangeeta displays the bright wooden coasters, cloth hangers, key chains and paper clips. Satish smiles broadly when Sr. Sangeetha introduces him as the best painter in the unit.

Monisha T.M., a hearing impaired student at Faith India, Thiruvankulam, stands next to a table of costume jewellery designed by her. Compliment her on her work and she smiles proudly. One feels at a loss at how to communicate with these young people with special needs. And according to the teachers at the institute, their costume jewellery sells like hot cakes.

This is the point of a fair such as this, teachers of the participant schools say. They are unanimous about the benefits of the Abilities Mela. “Whatever little it is that they do in making a product it gives them an immense sense of pride and self worth. And if they make some money why not?,” says K.S. Lovegen who runs Parvathi Handicrafts Women’s Training Centre and imparts vocational training to youngsters with special needs.

This year the Abilities Mela is being conducted by the People’s Council Social Justice (PCSJ) in association with the Ernakulam Karayogam. There are 23 schools from in and around Kochi that will participate. The two-day Mela, which is on at TDM Hall, concludes on Nov. 17.