Venkatesh K, a graduate of Bangalore University, is a 30-year-old visually impaired man. But his disability has not dulled his view of the world. In fact, Venkatesh’s need to help those who face similar challenges as him has set him as an example to follow.
Venkatesh hails from Chittoor in Andhra Pradesh. He lost his eyesight when aged a tender five months. Since then, he has always struggled with keeping a positive outlook to life, coming up against enormous hurdles through his boyhood years, his teenage and youth. Despite all difficulties, Venkatesh always felt inspired to give back to society by helping other visually impaired and physically challenged boys.
His mother, Rathnamma, a woman of simple aspirations, supported her son in every step of his struggle towards self-empowerment. A journey she walked alone after the demise of her husband.
Rathnamma recounts the testing times they suffered due to poverty. “I worked as a vegetable vendor and tried my best to ensure that my son had all the comforts he could hope for.” Venkatesh attended schools for the blind where he proved to be a quick learner.
He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Arts from Bangalore University. The Scribe System here helped him successfully attempt all examinations.
The need to help those faced with difficulties like him, motivated Venkatesh and his mother to put together Sai Trust for Persons with Disabilities in June 2004. They were helped by five MNC employees in this.
National Association for the Blind offered to give mobility training through the Trust. Vijaynagar’s Sahana Charitable Trust donated Braille books and audio lectures on various subjects.
The Trust, today, runs hostel in Murugeshpalya. Students who stay here can opt for music lessons or take advantage of the after-school tuitions that have been provided for by volunteers from corporate and social organisations.
Says Venkatesh, “Sai Trust assists people with disabilities in discovering an independent life. We do this by making them aware of their rights and responsibilities, offering programmes on computer skills to better employment opportunities and by providing an enabling atmosphere where they can network with other organisations and people.”
The organisation currently provides hostel facilities to 30 boys with disabilities. In the last nine years, about 70 students have benefited from the Trust which has provided them with jobs in call centres, garment factories and as data entry operators. Says Venkatesh, “We have helped people secure loans under the Self-Employment Scheme to start STD booths and set up units to manufacture candle, incense sticks and camphor. Many of our students have been recruited by Mphasis, Dracold Solar Company and other corporations.”
A registered charitable trust, Sai Trust has grown with the hardwork and persistence of Venkatesh and his partners.
“We depend solely on donations made by other NGOs and MNCs. It is our dream to see more and more underprivileged blind students approach our organisation so that they can build a life for themselves. And age is no barrier. Our programmes such as ‘Community Based Rehabilitation’ and ‘Integrated Education For The Disabled’ try to reach out to school children and middle-aged adults,” says Venkatesh.
Venkatesh never allowed his limitations to overpower his life. “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. We tell this to every depressed soul who walks through the doors of our organisation.” A lesson each one of us must hold dear.