Seven visually challenged persons formed the Lotus Blind Welfare Trust of India in 2002.
A handful of well-dressed girls chatting merrily enter Thiruveethiamman Koil Street, Mylapore. Winding their way through aluminium vessels, plastic pots and food leftovers, they knock at a small gate. Scrambling 2-3 steps they cross the front porch into a passage that leads into a hall. Here they are greeted by their friends who grope to reach out to them. It is this casual gesture that gives away the secret. It takes a few seconds for one to come to terms with this bitter truth that they are all visually challenged. Yet, one realise that blindness does not deter them from carrying out their day-to-day activities or miss out on any fun which a normal person indulges in.
Amidst a slum, stands the hostel for the visually challenged, set up by the Lotus Blind Welfare Trust of India. The hostel houses more than 50 girls.
The home buzzes with activity throughout the day. A regular scene here is readers sitting amidst the girls to help out with their lessons. Listening to them intently, the girls savour every bit of information that is being read out to them. Most of them are studying in colleges in the city such as Ethiraj, QMC, Lady Wellington Teacher Training Institute, NKT School and so on. The readers are all from corporates who do this job as a service. Says Ram, Barclays Bank employee, “The girls react brilliantly to the lessons. They have good subject knowledge and this makes our job interesting.” A similar opinion is voiced out by R. Balajee, who works as process advisor in the same bank.
The inmates of the hostel are a happy lot as they are all comfortable with the services provided here. Maria, one of the inmates of the hostel who is doing B.Ed., says, “No other hostel offers facilities like this.” Sangeetha, who has just finished her B.Ed., endorses her views. Sangeetha was earlier staying in this hostel while doing her B.A. at QMC. She moved to a hostel at Pallavaram to pursue B.Ed. But she could hardly wait for the course to get over as she did not like her place of stay. “I am preparing for teacher recruitment board exam and prefer to stay here.”
How it started
The hostel was opened on Seshachalam Street, Saidapet. Its inmates were three students of QMC hailing from a poor background who lacked a secure place to stay or facilities to pursue higher education. The three were supported with a paltry sum which the trustees saved from their salary. Paucity of funds forced the trustees to shift the hostel to so many other places till they reached the present house.
Though they moved frequently, the way they cared for the girls attracted more members.
The trust not only takes care of their stay, but also provides free food, clothes and medical care. With ease, the inmates pursue their UG and PG courses in arts, music, computer science, etc, in different colleges in the city. It is a secular place where all festivals are celebrated. The trust spends more than Rs.4,000 a month on each girl. In the absence of Government or NGO support, the trust depends on the donation it receives from philanthropists to meet the expenses.
What it needs
Though the trust is managing everything with confidence, it is facing one big problem — the location of the present home.
“As it is situated amidst a slum, service providers hesitate to deliver the goods. The local boys indulge in eve-teasing. If we are given a proper place in the city, it would be very helpful for the girls to commute to their institutions,” says A. Padmaraj Jain, president- managing trustee of Lotus Trust. “Surana & Surana, company that owns the place, has been kind enough to give it free for rent,” says Kailash Mull Dugar, chairperson of Lotus and the committee.
“Our future plan is to support more girls, offer them more space for reading, set up a computer training centre and provide them with an audio and Braille library along with a recording centre.
As the trust is in need of funds and a permanent place to stay, we request philanthropists to come forward to help by means of sponsoring a girl's education, taking care of nutritional needs, etc,” says Mr. Padamaraj.
Those who are willing to donate, can contact 2499 5556/80564 76316.