Every day while commuting, we come across several people who are not as well-off as the rest of us. Some try to sell paintings while some sing in hope of some nickels. Many of them come from slums and suffer from autism, cerebral palsy, multiple disabilities, mental retardation etc.
To bring about a change in lives of these people, 67-year-old CM Kathavarayan decided to step in and set an example. Despite being visually-impaired, this man is changing lives of people who are fighting poverty alongside various disorders.
CM was born in a village called Gingee in Tamil Nadu, on June 15, 1949, but migrated to Bangalore with his family when he was seven. As a child, he once suffered from high fever and there was no question of paying for a doctor. At that time, his grandmother tried different home remedies to cure his fever as branded medicines were out of their reach.
She used herb oils as eye drops, which did cause a drop in CM’s temperature. But this little experiment left him blind for the rest of his life. At the age of 10, he joined a blind school in Whitefield, Bangalore and continued to study till he later completed BA, MA, and B Ed. He specialized in teaching the blind and began working as a high school teacher for the visually-impaired.
Undertaking new challenges
But after teaching for 25 long years, Kathavarayan decided to take upon a new challenge. Since long, he had desired to do something more for the physically-challenged and autistic individuals. So, in the year 2000, he took voluntary retirement and started Welfare Association for Rehabilitation and Society (WARDS) with a vision to promote understanding, acceptance, and full community inclusion for people with disorders.
“I used to hear about abled people helping visually or mentally impaired children and I thought why not me?” says Kathavarayan.
WARDS is a non-profit organization which supports children in slums who suffer from cerebral palsy, autism, dyslexia, mental retardation, and various other impairments. Operating from a small setup in a civic amenity site in Jeevan Bima Nagar, Bangalore, the organization also teaches life skills and vocational courses alongside providing day-care facilities.
Additionally, it conducts physiotherapy for children suffering from cerebral palsy and music and speech therapy classes for the ones with speech problems. Based on the degree of problem, the individuals are also educated in vocational training with yoga and life skills. To help them get jobs in various industries, WARDS goes a step further and trains them in weaving, block printing, and candle making.
“My journey will end with my children here at WARDS,” he says.
The organization that once started with just 10 children, now manages over 50 children and even a few adults in and around the city, with the help of 20 staff members.
“Kathavarayan’s vision was crystal clear, to create a place for the mentally challenged kids that they can call their own. A place where they are not looked at as outcasts or misfits but where teachers treat them like every other normal student,” explained Aruna, who is a teacher at WARDS.
Getting recognized by the government
Seeing the dedication and determination of this NGO, the government has recognized this institution and has allotted a 10,000 square foot plot on a 30 year lease. However, WARDS still requires about Rs 50 lakh to complete its renovation and has recently started a crowdfunding campaign on Milaap so that people can contribute and assist in their endeavour.
Kathavarayan aims to provide state of the art infrastructure at WARDS for providing exceptional services to the differently-abled. He also wishes to build and maintain a residential centre for the individuals who require special care.
Everybody feels sorry for the destitute people but very few come forward to help the cause. Kathavarayan’s efforts and dedication has helped him achieve his vision despite him being visually-impaired. His contribution to the society is indeed very noble and an exemplary for the nation as a whole when it comes to helping the impoverished section of the society.
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