These days Gaurav Kumar is planning to join a gym – he wants to look fit and handsome. Just like the gym-honed physiques of his colleagues and other young boys with whom he interacts, being at the front counter at the Haldiram’s.

Cut to 2004, Gaurav was found abandoned at Majnu Ka Tilla Gurdwara. He was mentally challenged. A charitable society called Manovikas took him under its care.They found that he was more interested sports than studies. Manovikas trained him in cycling – he went on to win a gold medal at the Special Olympics this year.

His inter-personal and intra-personal skills soon earned him a back-end job at the food chain. Within a few months, he was promoted to the front counter. With his physical abilities, his intellectual capabilities also saw a positive change. He was recently seen asking his department head in jest: “Arre sir, is bar salary five figures main karva do” (Sir, please get me a five-figure salary this time).

Gaurav is one among the 39 trained by Manovikas this year. Some of them have been employed with hotels in house keeping, room service as also the front desk. Others still have got into prestigious spaces like the State Bank of India, Barista and Big Bazaar as office attendants and in other ranks.

The society, which grew from a 20-yard plot and now has centres at Soorajmal Vihar in East Delhi and Pitampura in North-West Delhi, focuses on children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, said Dr. Alok Bhuwan, who founded Manovikas in 1977. “We ensure they complete schooling as often these children drop out because of pressure from parents or teachers. As per the Right to Education Act, all children up to the age of 14 should get education, and since these are late learners, they complete only Class 7 or 8 by then.”

At Manovikas, they do not suggest that these special students go in for regular subjects but those that they can grasp fast and that can help them get employed. It provides them one-year certificate to five-year diploma in fields including hospitality, retail, IT, health and beauty, office jobs depending upon their willingness and parental support. These courses are affiliated to the National Vocational Educational Qualification frame work of the Ministry of Human Resource and Development.

“The courses are need-based and they facilitate replacement of two subjects from five as per the student’s choice. If a child is not good at maths but in music, he can opt for the latter. Also, if a child cannot write well but speak well, we give them courses in inter-personal and intra-personal skills which help them get jobs.”