“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” – James Baldwin
Most humans have a tendency to watch what is happening around them, feel sorry, and then move on. But few react and respond and face the problem. These are the people who bring in the change in the lives of those who need timely support.
Some are born differently-abled due to circumstances or fate. But that does not mean they are weak. A child is only as disabled as their environment and the beliefs of the people around them. The people around these specially-abled children make them feel weak and handicapped by giving sympathy or shunning them away, instead of actually hand holding them when needed and giving them the courage to face the world.
One such lady, in a small town of Baramati district of Maharashtra, followed her heart’s calling and reached out to such special children and created a small little heaven for them to grow and become proud citizens. Setting goals is the first step into turning the invisible into the visible.
Rameshwari Nitin Jadhav established the Niwasi Mukbadhir Vidyalaya for hearing impaired children. So, someone with a compassionate heart can understand them best. Rameshwari, with no past experience or family background in this field, came forward to give these special children a home.
She belongs to Baramati, educated in Pune at Pune University M.A.( Hindi) Gold medalist .
2nd M.A in Women’s Studies. Continued her further studies in DCJ – Diploma in Communication and Journalism
D. ED- (hearing impaired). She is now pursuing MSW – Masters in Social Work)
During her N.S.S training as a student, she got introduced to social work and wanted to keep working in that field. She started dreaming of one day having her Ngo someday. Use her education to serve people. She got married like all Indian girls, and surprisingly, her in-laws were very supportive and encouraged her to move forward in her field of social work.
After her son was 6 months old, she decided she wanted to work in the field of these hearing-impaired children.
She wanted to show the world that being disabled does not mean Un-abled, just Different Abled.
Working for deaf and dumb children and establishing a school for them started looking like reality.
It was a big project, a difficult task, the road ahead was tough. But the belief in herself, the support that she received from her husband and family, and her supporters in her social work field, gave her the impetus to move forward.
She initiated the work of establishing schools for Deaf and Mute children in 2010 – Niwasi Mukbadhir Vidhyalay.
The path of working in a non-traditional format of a normal school is never easy. There were lots of hurdles from day one. There were financial obstacles. But Rameshwari did not lose hope. She sold her jewellery and saw that construction work at the centre did not stop.
She went to the door to collect clothes, toys and whatever donations she could gather. At times, it was awkward and embarrassing yet, she did not allow that to stop her.
Most of the children were from the local villages, neighbouring farms or construction sites. They could not afford to pay any kind of fees for the education of the differently-abled children. In fact, they asked her to provide financial help to manage their family expenses. She decided that she will not charge them any fees but raise the funds through her contacts.
She did not want the children to feel they were victims of circumstances. She taught them to face each obstacle with courage.
When the path is difficult and rocky, the only thing that edges you on is willpower. Her main aim was to include these children in mainstream society. These differently-abled children are literally ostracised from society. Neglected, abandoned by their family and neighbourhood. In fact these children have more care and compassion. They have to be educated and made confident to face the world. Rameshwari wanted to make these children so able that they don’t feel their disability and can become financially independent.
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. And Rameshwari did not stop.
Now it has been 7 years that she is running her learning centre, and there are 35 special children who are studying there totally free. Teachers who were sensitive in handling these children joined the centre and supported Rameshwari.
In the Baramati district, this is the first residential school for differently-abled children who cannot hear or speak. They all come from extremely backward and poor backgrounds.
Apart from education, they are being trained in dance, theatre and cultural activities. Art and craft workshops are conducted regularly and many utility items are made which can be sold and revenue generated. The purpose is to provide them with skills so that they can earn in the future. These children perform in competitions and have received awards too.
Employment generating skills are being taught to older students. Stitching, tailoring, beauty treatments, parlour job skills, bookbinding, screen printing, laundry job work etc give them skills to help them become financially independent.
Some children don’t live at the centre but travel long distances to attend day school. So, a bus facility has been provided for them.
Apart from raising funds to construct the centre and residential space, Rameshwari saw to it that they get an open Hall to do their performances and artwork.
Regular medical checkups and help are given to these children. A free medical clinic facility is also provided for their families. Counselling and other mental health workshops are also conducted.
Speech therapy and other similar workshops are also held to improve their communication skills. Career counselling is also provided.
In her rehabilitation centre, Rameshwari and her team try to help the adult students to re-establish themselves in society and earn a living. After 18 they have to leave the centre as per law. Some parents force these young adults to get married just to get their burden off.
A case which Rameshwari narrated was that a deaf girl was married off to a handicapped man, they could just not communicate as that man did not understand sign language and the marriage failed. After this experience, she took up counselling for parents to make them understand the problem areas to establish these differently-abled people into normal life. It was sensible to get both deaf and mute people to get married. That was successful.
As a translator for many other institutions and even during court cases, she experiences a lot of real-life stories. Many young deaf and mute girls are raped by close family members and it’s extremely painful to deal with such children and their fears and phobia later. Rameshwari tries her best to provide moral and physical support to them.
There are many people who wish to contribute to society but don’t know-how. There are many such initiatives run by good genuine people like Rameshwari where you can help, even long distance. A lot of voluntary work can be done in many spheres. She was always supported by reliable donors like Mr Hari Om kaka and Dr Mohan Swaminathan.
The sponsorship of each child is Rs 16,000 per year. You could contribute via donations or by sending material to complete the construction for the Centre. Donate books, educational toys, sponsor meals or take them out for a short outing. There are lots that one can do physically or online.
Hard work always pays off. Rameshwari received many awards and appreciation during her journey.
Sharda Ratna Award given by the hands of Ajit Dada Pawar and Mr Ujwal Nikkam.
Dr Nanasaheb Parulekar award
Stree Shakti award by Jagjik Mahila foundation.
Suman Award from Akhil Bhartiya Muslim Foundation
Education excellence award from Rao Bahadur Shembeker Trust
Gaurav Rashtriya Award from Sanskar Pratishthan Pune.
Appreciation from Activist Savitri Bai Phule Foundation
Special mention from S.R Foundation on the occasion of Shigmotsav.
Special award from Krishnaram Ashtekar Jewellers.
Vasundara Vahini foundation – Special mention as Samarangini.
And the latest is the Super Womens award 2020 given by Prabhat News Paper
A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.
Compassionate people like Rameshwari Jadhav are rare to find. Who is balancing her family duties and leading a selfless life for others? When your intentions are good, you will surely get positive support and Rameshwari has proved that a woman can wear many hats – a good wife, mother, daughter in law and a social activist to bring in social change. A true Indian woman who has achieved what many cannot, in her own simple way, in a small town of Baramati.
She believes what ate Bornstein says-
“Let’s stop tolerating” or “accepting” differences, as if we’re so much better, for not being different in the first place. Instead, let’s celebrate difference because in this world it takes a lot of guts to be different.”
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