BENGALURU: Twenty four differently-abled boys have built an entire garden teeming with flowering plants, herbs and vegetables at the Association for People with Disability (APD) campus in Jeevan Bhima Nagar. This was part of their horticulture training at APD. After toiling for months, they successfully became graduates of sorts on Saturday amid much ceremony and fanfare.
Founded around 50 years ago, APD gives hope to differently-abled youth around the state. Most of the students come from small villages and have tales of misery to relate. “Some of them come because there is no work in their towns. Others come here because their family does not want them around during social events. We give them a place to stay and also teach them a vocation which will help them earn money. All this is free of cost,” says Ganesh Hegde, associate director of APD.
The building is spacious and allows students to freely practise their skills. A horticulture trainer himself, Ganesh loves the sight of children working in the garden. “Nurturing a sapling and watching it grow tall and strong is like therapy for them,” he says.
The Jeevan Bhima Nagar branch houses only girls. The boys are located further away from the city near Hennur. It is there that they undergo vocational training. However, at the end of their course, they come to APD to showcase their horticultural skills. “We have an exhibition for the next 10 days and will be selling plants to help fund our institution. These are the plants that were grown by the trainees,” Hegde adds.
Funded completely by donations, APD also teaches the girls life skills. “Currently, we are in between batches. We plan to start another batch soon. The facility can house 75 girls,” says Sagaya Mary, a trainer. They also teach the girls basic cooking. "This gets them jobs with restaurants like Adigas, which do surveys of where our trainees can be used. They are employed to pack food or chop vegetables,” she adds.
Teaching them to stay clean is one of the biggest challenges the trainers face, says Sagaya Mary. She says,“We house girls who are 18 and above and the first thing they are taught is to take a bath everyday.”
Mary fondly remembers a girl named Gangamma. "She was mute, deaf and partially blind. At first, we thought she would not stick to the programme, but to our surprise she picked up really fast. At the end of the course, she was rejected by four potential employers. But she was adamant and finally found a job in the city. She now has helped her family build a house in their hometown,” she says.
The good work has not gone unnoticed. Sajan PV, a neighbour and regular visitor at APD is making efforts to ensure that the youth get the best education. “We have approached research institutions like the National Bureau for Agriculturally Important Insects. It would be great if the trainees could learn sustainable gardening from the experts,” he says.