As per a UN report, 74 percent of persons with physical disabilities, and 94 percent of mentally challenged persons of working age are unemployed in India. Looking to address this vulnerability and exclusion, and to provide people with disabilities opportunities to work and live up to their potential, G. Karthikeyan founded the Sristi Foundation in 2013, and set up Sristi village in 2014 in rural Tamil Nadu, around 30 km from Puducherry. Having grown up in an orphanage, Karthikeyan saw how his friends with disabilities faced discrimination, first for education and later for employment. He realized they had limited opportunities and were often treated with pity and indignity. He thus decided to work towards providing a home to people with disabilities to reside, along with a training centre and a working place in order to live more independently and explore their potential. Karthik chose to pursue higher education in psychology to understand the human mind better, and spent time traveling and volunteering, trying to understand the approaches and models adopted to inculcate a sense of self-worth in those with disabilities.
After completing his graduation, he returned to the orphanage, and tested the models and eventually started his own non-profit organization. Certain he wanted to train the disabled in farming, Karthik began his journey to find ways and means to create an all-engaging opportunity space for residence, work, and recreation, where natural farming techniques were taught and practiced.
Over the last three years, Sristi Foundation has worked with 15 adults and 18 children with disabilities from marginalized backgrounds to them intensive, long-term support to make them better equipped for opportunities in the future. In 2015, the foundation received the Innovative Social Change Maker Award from Yuva Unstoppable, Tamil Nadu, and was also awarded the Social Entrepreneur Award from the International Conclave. Among those exploring their potential at Sristi Foundation, Shankar deserves special mention. Shankar has cerebral palsy, which made it impossible for him to find a job. After joining the Sristi village, and training for just one year, he was employed as a farmworker. At present, Shankar looks after 10 cows with one more employee and is training other existing Sristi Village members in farming to enable more of them to become independent. The foundation also worked to improve land fertility.
To make the community self-sustaining, the foundation has set up a dairy farm that produces 20 liters of milk, 50 percent of which is used for residents’ needs, while the rest is sold to generate income. Cow dung is used for compost, and biogas and cow urine as natural pest repellents for plants, which further helps to cut costs. The foundation recently started the Nalla Keerai Project (Good Spinach), through which it grows and sells 20 different varieties of spinach to the local community to be able to fund the daily running costs to some extent. Promotion of clean energy resources and sustainable living is one of the major goals since the community runs on natural energy sources – solar for water pumps and lighting, and biogas, and employs a zero-budget farming technique.
(Text Source: YourStory)
Tags: G.Karthikeyan | Sristi Foundation | Non-Profit Organisation | Disabilities | Tamil Nadu