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Helping the Handicapped

A Kolhapur-based organisation helps the disabled become self-supporting

Helpers of the Handicapped, Kolhapur (HoHK) was started in 1984 by two dynamic ladies, Naseema Hurzuk, a paraplegic since she was 16 years old, and Rajani Deshpande, who uses crutches to move around due to polio, along with Manohar Deshbhratar. As its name indicates, the organisation is dedicated to rehabilitating persons with disabilities. It has so far helped nearly 20,000 people with medical aid (including corrective surgery), aids and appliances (wheelchairs, callipers and crutches), hostel accommodation, school and college education, vocational training and, finally, employment.

The organisation operates three main projects. Two of these are hostels, called Gharonda and Swapna Nagari (in Kolhapur and Sindhudurg), respectively. But it’s not just boarding that is provided. The objective of the organisation is to equip residents to lead a full life. To this end, they are taught cooking, use of computers, tailoring and embroidery, aside from skills that will help them get employment. Ayaz Sangrar, a trustee of the organisation, says, “At Gharonda, 65 school and college students and 15 vocational trainees reside. A few of the residents train at our workshop where we manufacture aids, such as callipers, and appliances, such as commodes, tricycles and furniture. Swapna Nagari hosts 90 vocational trainees and staff; most of them work at the cashew-processing unit. All these hostels’ inmates are physically challenged.”

The third project is Samarth Vidya Mandir, a school in Kolhapur that runs on donations. Mr Sangrar says, “It is an integrated co-ed school in Kolhapur. Currently, there are 525 students from KG to class X. We have a library, reading room and an audio-visual room where we screen educational films. Able-bodied boys and girls from economically backward rural areas also study here, paying nominal fees. The physically-challenged children study and live here free of charge.”

Teaching wasn’t on HoHK’s agenda initially. Its aim was only to provide basic medical aid and appliances to physically-challenged children. But, now, the organisation takes this task very seriously. Mr Sangrar says that HoHK’s teachers go out of their way to improve the lives of those living around them. He says, “For example, there is a colony of tribal people nearby. Our teachers go to the colony and teach them Marathi. We encourage them to send their children to our school.”

These three projects, Mr Sangrar says, are now running without any significant challenges, which is why HoHK is ready to take on new projects. “We plan to establish an employment exchange for the disabled. They would have to register and we would find employment for them. We are also planning to scale up advocacy and take up the cause of employment of the disabled according to the guidelines of the Disability Act 1995.”

There are numerous ways in which individuals can support HoHK. Donations are tax-deductible under Section 80-G of the Income Tax Act. Mr Sangrar says, “A child’s education costs Rs35,000 a year. This covers everything, from accommodation to medical aid. You could donate to our corpus reserve fund and cashew unit revolving fund. You could also help in database or website management or sponsor a single meal at one of our hostels, which at the Gharonda hostel costs Rs4,000 (Rs5,000 with one sweet dish) and at Swapna Nagari costs Rs3,500. Around 150 physically-challenged children live at these hostels.”

Helpers of the Handicapped, Kolhapur

223/6 E, Atmaram Apartments
Tarabai Park, Kolhapur 416 003
Maharashtra Tel: (91-231) 2680026 / 652 1294 www.hohk.org.in

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