Abilities Mela is back with a collection of products made by students of special schools in the city

“It is a shame that very few visitors from the general public come to the Abilities Mela. Nobody bothers,” says a teacher, Minel, from the Raksha Special School. The Abilities Mela which is into its fifth edition begins today at TDM Hall.

The Mela, which is organised by the People’s Council for Social Justice, in association with Business Community Foundation and the Ernakulam Karayogam, showcases the work done in schools and Vocational Training Centres (VTC) for people with special needs. The Mela puts on the shopping rack various products made by these individuals. “We are not asking for sympathy. We are not asking people to buy anything out of a feeling of ‘poor things’ and then chuck these things in some corner. Our ‘children’ are making things which are of use,” Minel says. The products are made based on the capabilities of the students of the special school and VTCs.

Raksha School is putting up a food stall ‘Har Bite Mein Masti Bhara Swad’. As a sampler of what is to come, Vishal, a student of the school, along with Sreelakshmi rustles up a mean bhelpuri. Sreelakshmi chops the vegetables while Vishal mixes the snack. The stall will also have aprons, kitchen towels and similar products. Raksha School also makes chairs and gaiters for those with cereberal palsy.

Innovation galore

Innovation is a key ingredient of the Mela as the participants are encouraged to broaden the range of their products. Soaps, eatables (snacks), garments, toys, plants, paintings, crochet place mats, doormats, notebooks and paper bags are some of the products.

The annual event is also a platform for these institutions to interact with each other and gives them an opportunity to expand their range of products. Students of N. Musthafa Sahib Memorial School at Edathala (Aluva) received the prize for the best product last year for their potted plants. The institution’s stall will include herbs, plants, pickles besides doormats, candles and toys. The products by Ashakendram (Karikkamuri) included woollen mufflers, spiral bound notebooks, pickles and preserves made by students of the school.

The umbrellas made by the students of the Kerala Rehabilitation Institute for the Physically Affected (Kripa) would beat any of the ‘branded’ umbrellas available. The sturdy umbrellas — garden, grandfather and the folding varieties — have many takers. These would make excellent corporate gifts too. Kripa also makes notebooks for many schools in the city. Father Jacob Menachery of Kripa proudly shows the umbrellas made by his students and vouches for their sturdiness.

Greeting cards made by Asadeepam, a special school in Kalamaserry, have been picked up by corporates. Jibin, a student of the school, paints a flower on a handkerchief. He is a picture of concentration. Pots, wall pieces, handkerchieves…painted by him and his friends are on show at the Mela. “I like to paint,” he says very confidently.

Bright knick-knacks — coat hangers, key holders, key chains, towel hangers, pen holders — are some of the products made by Snehanilayam Special School. Pieces of costume jewellery by students of Faith India, a VTC, are tempting.

Sense of achievement

Priya, a student of Sraddha, run by the Women’s Association Hall, proudly points to a baby frock that she has sewn (on a machine) and announces that she made it. The sense of achievement is there for all to see.

That brings up the question if the Abilities Mela serves its purpose of empowering the differently-abled. The schools have various answers — it makes people aware of such institutions, some say, and it does translate into more orders and enquiries. But all of them are unanimous in their opinion that people should care more, at least enough to come and take a look at the show. The Mela is on till October 12, from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.