The ‘Dreams Gift Shop’ is not a dream-come-true for five physically-challenged young women, as their dreams do not end at the 200 sq ft shop located at Vazhichal, near Karukutty. In fact, it is only the beginning of their aspirations and goals.
The shop, which was opened two months ago, has everything ornamental: decorative candles, ornamental bead necklaces, bouquets and garlands, interlaced with gold and cotton yarns. With a glassy facade and enough lighting and furniture, the shop attracts everyone who passes through Vazhichal.
The five-member team, identified as ‘disabled from 40 to 100 per cent’, have been professionally trained in ornament and flower decoration as well as bag manufacturing.
They met each other during classes at a rehabilitation and training centre of the Sahrudaya Sparshan at Karukutty, which is administered by the Welfare Services Society of the Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese of the Syro-Malabar church. The group is also receiving the support of the Karukutty-based Mithram Association for the Handicapped.
While Rixy Rappai, a graceful girl, has 60 per cent disability, Leela Velayudhan has 40 percent disability, Sheeba Varghese, 50 per cent, and Detty P V, with 100 per cent disability.
Rixy’s disability is in her speech. Despite the slight slurring, she talks to the visitors, politely and impressively. Leela, Sheeba and Detty help Rixy in making the items.While Leela makes nicely designed paper and jute bags, Sheeba, with her adept fingers, weaves varieties of ornamental neck chains. “Beads are a great way to make nice ornaments as well as ‘special occasion’ gifts, which will be cherished for years,” said Sheeba. Glass balls with beaded netting and beaded candy canes are some of the items made of beads. Clothes and bouquets needed for baptisms, betrothals and marriages are also designed and prepared. “With these gifts and decorative articles, we want to light up the hearts of those who visit us,” said Rixy. “Only then our dedication and effort which we have put into this shop will be meaningful.”
About what they have learned in the past few months, Sandhya Binoy, who looks after the management and the sales, said, “The trends are changing, as men are also involved in housekeeping. When couples come to buy decorative articles, they choose them together. The team is making certain changes in the patterns of new items.”
People in urban areas typically live in smaller homes, compared with villages, and they lack the space to store items. Hence, Rixy and her team have designed items that are easy to store. The Dream Gift Shop has also plans to expand by marketing raw materials, like solar wood and chemicals required for artificial flowers, gift articles and allied products.
The shop is an inspiration for girls with disabilities, who have withdrawn into the shadows of the four walls of their homes. It is an invitation for them to come out into the light and face their future with confidence, rather than remain in the darkness.