A pre-Diwali event was organised at Delhi’s Blind Relief Association by the iTV Foundation, the CSR wing of iTV Network. Nibedita Saha interacted with the visually-impaired artisans and students here.
The festival of lights, Diwali is as much about celebrating the life we have as it is about reaching out to the less fortunate and bringing the light of hope into their lives. It was with this spirit that the CSR wing of iTV Network, iTV Foundation, hosted a pre-Diwali event at the Blind Relief Association in Delhi on 16 October.
The evening was dedicated to the visually-impaired workers here who make diyas and candles that are sold during the festive season at the Diwali Bazaar organised on these premises. This year’s bazaar is scheduled to be held from 18-24 October. During the course of event on 16 October, food boxes were distributed among students, and activities like music performances and poetry recitals were also held.
Kailash Chandra Pande, executive director of the Blind Relief Association, Delhi, spoke to Guardian 20 about iTV foundation’s pre-Diwali celebrations.“Events like these motivate the kids, and they get very happy to meet new people,” he said. This is that time of the year when everyone at this facility is busy preparing for the upcoming Diwali Bazaar. So this event, he said, was a welcome break from the busy festive season itinerary. “It just added more happiness to this festival for them,” Pande said.
The aim of the seven-day Diwali Bazaar is to support the visually-impaired craftspeople at the Blind Relief Association, and to help these artisans monetise their creativity to some extent.
“I feel very happy when people buy my candles,” said Harish Ji, who has been making candles for more than 30 years now. He is a full-time candle maker, and works “for 13 hours around Diwali as the workload is very high”. “It feels good when you people come to meet us. This place is like home to me,” he added.
Nitesh Kumar, who lost his eyesight in an accident, depends on his candle-making skills for livelihood. He said, “I send money to my parents back home. I came here in 2016 and have been working since. This place has helped me become independent.”
The Blind Relief Association has done a lot of work with visually-impaired students, in the fields of education, vocational training and human resource development programmes. It also runs a residential school, from nursery to 12th standard, which has more than 200 students now.
“Students have a fulfilling time here. They get involved in many extracurricular activities. Our school students are not involved in candle-making and other activities. They are totally focused on their education,” said Pande.
Kanhayi, a class 5 student, aspires to be a lawyer. He said, “I like this place very much. Sometimes I miss home but I want to study hard. I only go home during vacations.”
Visually-impaired persons from marginalised communities often participate in the various training programmes offered here, from candle-making, stitching and paper craft, to computer training.
“We have people who don’t have any prior school education and also school dropouts in our vocational training programmes,” said Pande.
Apart from their skill-development programmes, the association is also actively working towards bringing their trainees into the mainstream school education system. “We help them to complete their education. This year 12 of our trainees sat for 10th and 12th broad examinations. We don’t want them to remain candle-makers for their whole lives. We want them to pursue their dreams,” informed Pande.
Jageshwari, a 25-year-old, has learnt to write her name for the first time during her vocational training. She said, “I have learnt Braille and paper crafts in my training session. It was a life-changing experience for me.”
Another trainee, Sagar, who is originally from Bihar, has been learning massaging and candle-making for the past few months. He told us, “I will sit for 10th board examinations this year and want to study further. This is also my first time at the Diwali Bazaar, and I am very excited about it.”
These vocational training programmes help the visually-impaired to gain financial independence, which further enables many of them to finish their schooling and aim for a better life.