Future lit up, lives back on track for differently-abled individuals in Chennai
Chandrasekar (33), a resident of West Mambalam, is a relief for many physically challenged and visually impaired people in and around Chennai.
CHENNAI: A cool breeze swept past the passengers as the train chugged to the platform. Hearing the familiar announcement ‘Yatriyan kripya dhyan de…,’ 31-year-old S Ruban slowly unfolded his white cane, got up from the wooden bench and prepared for another set of customers. Thanks to social worker S Chandrasekar, the visually impaired man is now making enough by selling burfi (peanut sweet) at railway stations in Chennai.
Chandrasekar (33), a resident of West Mambalam, is a relief for many physically challenged and visually impaired people in and around Chennai. Under the ‘Nam Dhesam’ (Our Nation) foundation, hundreds of lives have taken a turn. “Kindness is the language the deaf can hear and the blind can see,” says Chandrasekar, reflecting his ethos.
Elaborating on his journey, Chandrasekar says, “In 2013, along with my friend Suresh Gopal, I started ‘Nam Dhesam’ foundation and began identifying visually impaired individuals from underprivileged backgrounds and supporting them. Our core mantra, ‘Your Kindness is Blessed Forever,’ underpins our efforts. In 2015, we organised a volleyball tournament in Chennai, with 300 visually impaired participants. The tournament’s success led to its continuation in 2016.”
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the foundation’s support was extended to many differently-abled individuals. However, post-pandemic, they shifted focus to facilitating sustainable livelihoods for the visually impaired. As Chandrasekar puts it, “It is more worthwhile to teach someone to do something than doing it for them.”
Chandrasekar provides a capital of Rs 2,000 or Rs 3,000 to individuals to purchase items like burfi, kerchiefs, headsets, and pens. This small capital doubles their income within days. The venture even delves into wire chair making, stepping in with further support whenever needed. The initiative has thus far nurtured around 600 visually-impaired entrepreneurs.
S Ruban, one of the beneficiaries, says, “I am grateful for Chandrasekar’s investment of Rs 2,000, which boosted my earnings to Rs 400-Rs 500 a day by selling burfi at railway stations, bus stands, and bustling areas.”
“I have completed post-graduation and B Ed, and my aim is to get a government job. I have attempted eight exams, including TNPSC, banking, and TET so far,” he adds. Chandrasekar also arranged scribes for Ruban’s exams and covered his daughter’s school fees.
Another beneficiary, S Ramesh (47) says, “With the help of Chandrasekar, we craft wire chairs based on orders. With increasing orders, our income rises from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000. A group of 12 visually-impaired people are working together and is making a living with his help.”
Chandrasekar’s aid extends to juvenile homes, where he teaches music (Parai) to children across Chennai, Chengalpattu, Tiruvallur, and Kancheepuram districts. He also works closely with Infosys, Muthoot Finance and some other corporations to utilise their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds, effectively.
“My goal is to eradicate poverty through education and awareness,” emphasises Chandrasekar, encapsulating his mission.
(Edited by Sneha Joseph)