With a special touch

The Swarga Foundation’s ‘I’m Special’ Calendar features differently-abled children.

Updated - October 21, 2015 11:44 am IST

Published - October 10, 2015 05:20 pm IST

Making a statement: The team behind I''m Special, along with the models Photo: Special Arrangement

Making a statement: The team behind I''m Special, along with the models Photo: Special Arrangement

COIMBATORE: Sabari Venkat couldn’t stop smiling. Dressed in a golden kurta and pants, the 13-year-old strode onto the stage and addressed the audience at the launch of Swarga Foundation’s ‘I’m Special’ Calendar recently. “Ï feel so much more positive and confident,” he said.

Sabari, a visually challenged boy, is one of the models of the special calendar featuring differently-abled children designed by Swarga Foundation, a charitable trust, along with ‘thatmomentphotography’. Ashwathi, Nishant Sriram, Dinisha, Anand Selvaraj, and Swarnalatha J., founder of Swarga foundation were the other models. Albi No of thatmomentphotgraphy was the photographer.

Nineteen-year-old Nishant is autistic and loves to play on his tablet and assist his mother in the kitchen. He enjoyed the photo-shoot, says Akila Vaidyanathan, his mother who heads The Amaze Charitable Trust, a centre for autistic children.

“Nishant loved the limelight! Swarna has added so much respect to disability, especially when people hesitate to come out in public and say that their children are differently-able. ”

The calendar also involves creative inputs from the differently-able community in the city, says Swarnalatha who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis six years ago. “The brochures and banners are designed by V.G. Jagadeesh, a 24-year-old tetraplegic. The sales part is helmed by Murali Kuppusamy, who runs Deaf Leaders.”

‘I am not special, I am limited edition’ was the catchphrase at the event. The calendar was launched by dignitaries such as T. Balaji, the director of the Cancer Institute of GKNM Hospital and head of Amrit Centre for Special Needs; Dr. KG Bakthavatsalam, chairman of KG Hospitals; Vijay Mohan, Chairman of Pricol Ltd; and Police Commissioner, A.K. Vishwanath. The launch was followed by performances by children with special needs.

“We need to empathise more with the differently-abled, motivate them and provide them with disable-friendly infrastructure. We will soon arrange a ramp for the disabled at GKNM,” Dr. Balaji said.

Swarnalatha said it wasn’t easy convincing a few parents about the project. “They did not want their children to be in the limelight. We visited a lot of special schools and had to do a lot of talking.”

The idea for this venture emerged during a discussion with her husband, Tumkur Guruprasad, co-founder of Swarga Foundation. “We realised there is so much stigma associated with disability. We do not have the infrastructure also to support disabled people in the country. We wanted to build awareness and also show respect for the disabled community in the city. The funds from selling the calendars will be used for building a mobility van with toilets and beds, designed for the differently-abled. The aim is also to build a community of differently-abled people who can contribute to the society. Imagine if a small city like Coimbatore has such potential, what about the entire country? There should be more platforms to encourage people with disabilities.”

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