'Pratibandi' the exclusive village for the disabled is an example making the differently abled self sufficient.
Founded by the Paschim Banga Rajya Pratibandi Sammelani, the 'Pratibandi Village' is spread over 17 Bighas and is the recipient of government support as well as private donnations.
The village provides schooling up to standard X for about 250 hearing impaired kids as well as provisions for the mentally challenged. Children can also avail the hostel facilities and the Sammelani provides free bags, food, uniform, books, shoes etc as the children here are normally from the financially weaker sections.
"We have an organization called the Pashcim Banga Rajya Pratibandi Sammelani. Here we have a village for the disabled. The school was first stared in 1992 with five students and then we shifted to new place in 1995. The number of students increased and we started hostels for boys and girls. We teach from Grade A to standard VIII and provide vocational training from standard V to Class VIII. We received Madhyamik recognition two years ago. Last year 5 students appeared for the school final, one girl scored first division and four others got second division. This year, eight students have appeared for the school final. At present, we have 250 students," said Madhumita Dutta , Secretary, Paschim Banga Rajya Pratibandi Sammelani.
"At the Helen Keller School, the students are hearing impaired or deaf. As they can't hear, they are also speech handicapped. Most of them come from economically backward families. Some have fathers who are rickshaw pullers or daily labourers, their mothers work as domestic helps. Most students come from such families," Madhumita added.
The focus is first on helping the disabled students overcome their handicap and then encouraging them towards vocations in accordance with their talent and interest, with the view to make them self sufficient in the long run.
Hearing impaired children are provided with speech therapy and as well as regular academic classes. Mentally challenged children are also trained academically keeping in mind their capacity to learn and the intensity of their affliction be it 'Down Syndrome, 'Autism' or 'Cerebral Palsy'. However vocational training that enables children to be independent is what marks the success of the village.
Madhumita futher said : "Students get vocational training as per age and knack. Boys get training in printing, book binding, tailoring, chalk making, terracotta item making whereas girls get training in making soft toys, zardosi, embroidery, etcetera, " further added.
Vocational training starts at standard five where children are categorized according to their ability and interest in getting engaged in arts and crafts, embroidery, soft toy making, paper bag and candle making, chalk making, printing, book binding and tailoring. For those who are unable to proceed with their higher studies are aided to find employment in shops or factories as well as to set up their own toy making, candle making, printing or tailoring units. However children are successfully attending their school's final examination with good results in Matriculation exams in recent years.
The village also boasts of a export oriented garment unit in collaboration with a company called 'Frontier
Foundation' where about 80 hearing impaired and orthopedic-challenged youth are employed as tailors earning a salary varying from Rs.1,500 to Rs. 2,500 in accordance with their working hours and experience. 'Frontier Foundation' takes care of the marketing and sales.
Though the climb is a bit tiring for Kakoli Bhaskar who is physically challenged to the unit in 5th floor, the vocation has made her self reliant paying her a salary of Rs.2,000/-.
Kakoli Bhaskar, Orthopaedic-challenged worker at Garment factory, says: "I learnt this work here. I climb to the fifth floor everyday and work. I get Rs. 2,000 as salary. This has put me on the path to progress due to this garment work."
The village also has a school called Nobel Mission for mentally challenged children.
The village also boasts of committed teachers and volunteers who have proved that when provided with the right opportunities, the differentially abled can not only do regular schooling but also work to be self reliant to lead a life of boosting self esteem.