Tamahar Trust – Penning Down Our Journey of the Last 11 Years

An idea is a seed that first happens before any action. It took me some years to make my dream come true. And this is exactly how the seed of Tamahar was sown. ~Mrs. Vaishali Pai, Founder-Director, Tamahar Trust

Tamahar Trust-Founder-Director Mrs Vaishali Pai
Our Founder-Director Mrs Vaishali Pai

We completed 11 years this year, in January, just before the pandemic hit the world, we celebrated our 10 years, Dashanjali, a celebration of ten years of hard work, persistence, learning, and a never-give-up attitude. It was also an occasion for us to recognize the relations we’ve built over the years and an opportunity for us to forge new bonds as we grow our Tamahar family. As we have begun our 12th year of working toward a better life for children with special needs and their families, we’re going on a small flashback to our humble beginning.

Our journey began in the year 2009 with just 1 program having 4 children, 1 employee, Tripti BG, and 1 friend, Sree Rao, who was hell-bent to help our Founder-Director, Mrs. Vaishali Pai succeed.

Tamahar Trust programs
Our first employee and now, the COO of Tamahar Trust, Mrs. Tripti BG

From then to now, we’ve grown organically, through word of mouth and referrals. At 45+ employees across programs and operations teams, we stand strong as a family committed to ensuring the best for our children.

A session in progress at Tamahar Trust
A session in progress at Tamahar Trust

A mission to empower as many children with special needs and their families as humanly possible.

Tamahar Trust Staff
Our staff who are our life force

This we do through our strong workforce – a group of almost all-women whom we hired simply because they had in them, the passion to learn and contribute meaningfully while carving a better future for themselves. So, apart from formally qualified professionals especially in physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and mental health spaces, we also employed women who had a high emotional quotient which held an extremely important place for us, over and above their formal educational qualifications. We were also looking for those women who were passionate about creating a better future for themselves and their families, had within them, an immense love for children, and caring nature. This we say with pride, we have managed to skill women who would have otherwise continued to do unskilled jobs and created job opportunities improving the lives of at least 40 families.

We have not restricted our training to just our staff but have ventured into awareness and advocacy programs as well. Mrs. Vaishali Pai and our COO Mrs. Tripti BG have taken the building blocks of the programs at Tamahar to various parts of the state as well as a few programs in other parts of the country. This has helped us train more individuals and organizations in the areas of special needs and disabilities.

Tamahar Trust-Remover of Darkness
Our children’s families are an integral part of our programs at Tamahar

As more children came in, the number of programs increased and we began services for parents as well, recognizing their individual needs separate from their child and the needs of the family to understand the child. In time, we found passionate partners to provide various therapies to our children and parents too. We think the best thing we did with Tamahar was that we never stopped searching for more, for better. We have always strived for excellence, to be the best service provider possible for our beneficiaries, never afraid to take risks, sometimes when we were not sure where the next salaries would come from.

We are proud to say that Tamahar has come to be a nurturer not just for families, but for the employees too. Learning is in our DNA and each one of us is striving to be better in our individual way, and it all boils down to one thing – how can I help my children and parents better? They are at the core and WE are BECAUSE of them and FOR them! The road ahead is filled with more opportunities to make a difference.

After having taken the last year slow for a moment and basking in the warmth and success of the decade gone by, we catch our breath, and right after, we charge ahead, not letting COVID-19 dampen our spirits. There is much to be done. Bridging the demand-supply gap by creating more resources and contributing to the collective knowledge of the sector through research and training, creating more service opportunities.

“There are miles to go before I sleep, there are miles to go before I sleep.”

Know More – https://tamahartrustblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/13/empowered-families-encourage-better-development-in-the-child/

Growing from Role to Role – Teacher Aid to Assistant Therapist

gowri-children-park-visit-tamahar
Mrs Gowri engaging with the Tamahar children during a park visit

For most people, transitioning into a new role is a period of mixed feelings – of excitement and nervousness. However, it is a different feeling altogether if you are changing entire verticals within the same organization. Here is one such story of an individual who has broken barriers of language and education to move from the role of Teacher Aid to Assistant Therapist under the Physiotherapy/Occupational Therapy team of Tamahar.

We had a little chat with Mrs Gowri to understand her journey thus far and the various aspects of her work life that have had a positive effect on her personality and personal life. 

Gowri’s journey at Tamahar started off in the year 2010 when a friend of hers let her know about a possible vacancy for the role of a Teacher Aid at Tamahar. Thus began her ongoing journey which has lasted 9 years and counting. Over these years, she has proactively picked up skills and tips from everyone around her, covering aspects of not just her professional life but also soft skills, communication skills, and others relevant to her life as a whole.

assistant-therapist-gowri-physiotherapy-session
Assistant Therapist, Mrs Gowri during one of the physiotherapy sessions at Tamahar

She says, she has learnt a lot about therapy and handling children from our founder-director, Mrs Vaishali Pai and our COO, Ms Tripti BG. Apart from this, Mrs Gowri has also learnt the art of handling people, the right way to communicate with others, the dos and don’ts of working with children, and a lot more! Having come across children and families from various backgrounds, Mrs Gowri says she has been exposed to a wide range of medical conditions. This helps her understand the specific requirements of each of these children who have Physiotherapy/Occupational Therapy sessions and help the therapists accordingly. Apart from this, she has always shared a great equation with the children! One glance at the way the children hug her in the same manner they would hug their grandmother or aunt is proof of how much she is adored by our kids. They listen to her and she is like a mother hen to all children and even staff!

While Mrs Gowri has been lauded for her work earlier, she didn’t let it affect her work to the extent of making her complacent. Instead, she kept working towards improving herself and this helped maintain the quality of her work. Eventually, she was promoted to the role of Assistant Therapist. Overall, Mrs Gowri feels she has had a fulfilling professional life and hopes to learn even more in the coming years! We wish her all the best for everything she does currently at Tamahar and everything she aspires to do in the future!

physiotherapy-occupational-therapy-team-tamahar
Assistant Therapist, Mrs Gowri with the Occupational Therapist and Physiotherapist at Tamahar

Six Learnings from 30 Years of Working in the Disability Sector

I have been around in the disability sector in some form or the other for about 3 decades now, and yet, when I am asked to talk about it, I never know where to start. There is just so much going on in the sector at every conceivable level that the “relevant” bits get lost. For me, it is all equally important and it is all necessary to know, if you want to understand the sector at all.

_MG_7967

When it comes to childhood disability specifically, India is in a critical state. This section of society  is under-represented, largely ignored, misunderstood and mistreated. Even when they become part of the bigger narrative, the point under discussion is the nomenclature – do we call them disabled or differently-abled? Brain damaged or special? The conversations that will actually make a difference to them happen behind closed doors – so what if the child is not normal? What about his/her right to a good life, an education and employment? What is the right curriculum or treatment for them? Who will govern the standards of working with these children?

A report by the World Health Organisation states that out of every 100 children in India, 1 or 2 have special needs. Considering the population of India, this comes to a whopping 12 million children, which does not include the unreported or undiagnosed cases, children with rare diseases, autism, and so on. When you come down the socioeconomic ladder, the numbers are scarier.  It’s a known fact that the likelihood of disability is higher in the poorer strata of the society. Going by the 2001 census, of the 9.4 lakh disabled individuals in Karnataka, 6.7 lakh of them reside in villages.

Having said this, I have been extremely fortunate for having been given a chance to work and learn in this sector. Some of my learnings are as mentioned below.

Dismal state of infrastructure and amenities

Although there are millions of children with special needs in India alone, there are very few centers which cater to children with developmental delays and especially for those in need of early intervention programs. This makes it difficult for parents to make equal opportunities accessible for these children. Especially, in backward areas, due to lack of sufficient right resources, this becomes even more difficult. Secluded therapies and services make logistics and holistic treatment difficult. There was no single place which would provide all services.  Even if there are few special education centers, not many people know about them.

There is no single standard solution or therapy

With a multitude of symptoms constituting the indicators of developmental delays, there cannot be a ‘One Size Fits All’ solution or therapy to treat children with special needs. In addition to developmental delays, children with special needs can also have a combination of other medical conditions and when there are thousands of disorders that a person can get, a generic approach definitely cannot work.

1

Families of children with special needs are neglected

There is no respite for the overburdened parents, especially the mothers, being the one responsible for taking care of the child 24×7. Parents and families of these children with special needs are hardly provided any kind of support at the social, emotional, and financial levels.

The sector does not realise the importance of providing families as much training and support as the child needs. When families are trained to understand the condition of the children, they can support them better.

2

Selective blindness towards disability issues

The concept of pitying the differently-abled has been a part of the fabric of the Indian society since eternity. So, there is considerable hesitation when it comes to interacting and mingling freely with these individuals. In the process, the individuals and their families often end up being isolated by society and therefore face a lot of stigma on a daily basis.

In addition to the social stigma, families also have to deal with financing the medical treatments and therapy sessions. This can be mitigated to a certain extent by availing the financial schemes made available by the government. There are other, non-financial resources as well, provided by the government. However, the awareness levels of this is quite low among the families.

Apart from the above mentioned points, there is insufficient human resource who can be trained to work as special educators. Additionally, the absence of a central data repository makes it difficult for organisations working in the disability sector to reach out to those in need.

Denial is a bigger problem than awareness

In cases of brain damage or mental disorders, symptoms are quite ambiguous and hence brushed off as general misconduct of children. Parents find it difficult to accept the fact that their child is differently abled or has special needs. This could be attributed to the huge stigma associated with the term disability. The first step would be to work towards decreasing the stigma and encouraging more conversations and support groups.  There is an entire generation of lost children – an entire section of population hidden in hearts of the parents who deny their condition and in the mind of the society which rejects it.”

Inclusion is a two-way street

It is the responsibility of the disability sector to create awareness among society about ways in which differently abled individuals can be integrated into the mainstream community. At the same time, it is essential to prepare these individuals to be capable of being a part of the mainstream society. This way, both sections of society work towards bringing about inclusion in as many aspects of daily life as possible. Eventually, the end goal of inclusion should be to empower the differently abled and help them aspire for a life where they are treated at par with the rest of the community.

5
Tamahar works towards bridging this gap and helping individuals with special needs become a part of the mainstream society. To bridge this divide is my dream for Tamahar. That I help my children come halfway and I help the society meet them in the middle. Help them meet halfway.

Vaishali Pai