Manikandan sat with a smiling face binding books at Prayatna Training Centre in Kolathur, a unit of Sri Arunodayam, a home for mentally challenged persons. Manikandan is mentally challenged, has speech impairment, difficulty walking and cannot use one of his hands but this does not stop him from working.
He is one of the 15 people receiving vocational training at Prayatna Centre, which provides vocational training to mentally challenged persons above 18 years of age.
“We wanted to help create employment opportunities for them. At one point in life, they should try to be independent so we decided to set up a vocational training centre,” said Iyyappan Subramaniyan, founder and managing trustee of Sri Arunodayam.
The vocational training unit currently offers training in book binding and making paper bags, sorting paper, counting, stitching, pasting and cutting. Many of the persons who have undergone training are quite skilled. Impressed with the end product, Good Shepherd Matriculation Higher Secondary School has begun to buy books from the centre.
The adult members at the centre use one-side paper to bind the books. Kora Kagaz, a project that strives to reduce the wastage of paper by making meaningful use of it, provides Prayatna with papers.
“They learn very fast and work as a team. Earlier I used to help them make the books and bags but now all I do is supervise. They do it on their own,” said R Saravanan, a proud trainer. He added that his students are capable of making close to 200 books a day.
The training takes place between 10 am and 4 pm and every book they make has 50 pages. “We charge just Rs 8 for a book and the paper bags are priced around Rs 5 or Rs 6 depending on the size of the bag,” said Saravanan.
Praytna aims to add courses like cup and jewellery making in future. “Our aim is start a gift shop that sells products made by disabled persons,” said Iyyappan.