dreamybean

Archive for December 2013

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It was the year 2002, I had just passed out of college. I was young, clueless, and lost. I grabbed whatever came my way and joined WNS, a leading BPO back then. It was during this period, that my team members paid a visit to the Pune Blind School at Koregaon Park. A few  of them had volunteered to read stories to the children at the Blind School every week.

I clearly remember my friend telling me that she was getting into a state of depression, she stopped going there after the initial few weeks, she said it made her uncomfortable dealing with these children and that she could not handle it anymore. This memory somehow stayed in my head.

I hopped several jobs and cities over the years; but the memory remained.

I had never really known or seen anybody who was blind in real life; the only blind persons I had seen were the ones I had seen in movies or on TV; I was not sure if I was ready to help yet, but was curious to know about the world of men and women with blindness.

Sometime, earlier this year, I finally googled about the Pune Blind School, and called up the Administrator there; I wanted to visit them and possibly explore options of volunteering for help. I was nervous, and had a thousand things running in my mind; finally, in the morning of the day that I was to meet the Administrator,  I developed cold feet; I somehow felt that I was not ready to commit myself to any kind of help or support and chickened out. I was lame enough to call up the Administrator and apologized for not being able to make it this time. He courteously replied that I could call them up any time I wanted to visit them. I never called him after that.

2 weeks ago, I saw an email in my office mailbox regarding a visit to the Pune Blind Men’s association (PBMA) and registered for it. I thought, this was it!! This was going to be my last attempt of stepping into a zone I was afraid and paranoid about.

We were supposed to reach the venue at 9am on a Saturday morning, but by the time all of us reached, it was already 9.40am. We waited at the corridor for further instructions. In less than 5 minutes  we saw a gentleman in his late 50’s walk out of his office, he was Mr. Homeyar Mobedji, the CEO of PBMA. He welcomed us and gave our team an overview on PBMA.

We were listening intently to him at the Technical Training Institute of PBMA. He said that their vision and mission was to empower  visually impaired persons by helping them aquire skills and techniques through their various professional trainings. They also helped their students in finding employment options, training and on job assistance. The age group of their students was 18 – 35 years.They provide their students all their trainings free of cost. Their lodging and boarding is also free.

It was towards the end of the entire visit that we figured that Mr. Mobedji is completely blind; he neither had a white cane, nor did he have any trouble stepping in and out of his office. Any time a volunteer asked him a question, he responded by looking straight at that person’s face. That came as a surprise; because, the first memory I had of a blind person was watching Nirupa Roy in Amar Akbar Antony. Bollywood has always depicted the Blind as victims in need of constant help and sympathy. The scene here was different. There were students, walking around and talking as easily as us. The students here were on their path to become self reliant, confident individuals with the hope of blending into the mainstream world.

The thing I did notice was that the students often moved around in pairs, holding each others hands, guiding each other through the correct pathway, occasionally bumping into our group members.(We were a big group and had occupied a huge area around entrance of PBMA).

While interacting with some of the students of PBMA, we discovered that most of them were extremely intelligent and well informed about current affairs. I had prepared a Quiz as a part of the Fun Event that was planned for the students; they could answer all of them correctly.

We also happened to walk into the Vodafone Customer Care section of PBMA, I was delighted to see the way they answered their calls; they were able to identify callers with the help of a special screen reading software that helped them handle their day to day calls. I was truly impressed.

We also were taken in to their Recording room which is used for their Digital Talking Book Project – this is used to produce audio books for the general Visually Impaired community so that they can have listening material for their various learning courses.

Some of the courses that PBMA offers include:

1. Training in Call centre operations – in partnership with Maharashtra and Goa; we actually had gone to this room, and were surprised at the way these students answered calls with the help of a screen reading software that allows them to identify their caller and verify basic information of the customer.

2. Certificate course in French language – in partnership with Alliance Francaise, Pune

3. Certificate course in Basic Computers for the visually challenged.

4. Certificate course in Massage and Naturopathy

5. Certificate course in Diet and Nutrition

6. Certificate course in Home Science

7. Certificate courses in general trades and handicrafts etc.

They also have grooming sessions for personality development. music and braille.

PBMA also provides assistance to its students to complete formal Higher Education through Open Universities.

Aid and Support: Currently, the PBMA runs on donations and charities; you can either support them in form of donations.

All donations to this institute are exempt under Sec. 80G of the Income Tax Act. Cheques, drafts can be drawn in the name of “Technical Training Institute of Pune Blind Men’s Association”, payable at Pune.

In case you are interested in helping them, you can contact them at:

The Technical Training Institute of the Pune Blind Men’s Association,

109, Dr. Hellen Keller Road, at the foot of Ramtekdi, Hadapsar, Pune 411013.

Tel: +91-20-26870609 or 91-20-26870986.

Email: pbma.tti@gmail.com

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I think I can just go on and on about things I saw at PBMA; it made me wonder, how we take things for granted. Our lifestyles are such that we tend to overlook the beauty that surrounds us; when was the last time you saw the sun rise? or the sun set? When was the last time you saw a rainbow, or that butterfly; I wish I could soak it all up. I wish I can keep my eyes wide open to be able to watch things around me rather than just seeing it.

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