A vocational school’s ‘umbrella term’ for growth and rehabilitation

In their workspace, students sit in groups and make umbrellas while having fun chats.
The students of Navajyoti BUDS Rehabilitation Centre during the umbrella-making process and at their shop on the school premises
The students of Navajyoti BUDS Rehabilitation Centre during the umbrella-making process and at their shop on the school premises

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The students of Navajyoti BUDS Rehabilitation Centre, a vocational school in Chittazha, Maruthoor, are busy making umbrellas this rainy season. To develop their skills and follow their dreams, these students with disabilities receive support from the Karakulam grama panchayat and the Nedumangad block Panchayat.

Although officially capped at 35 years, the age limit at BUDS is more of a guideline than a rule, ensuring that no one is turned away from here. The centre currently supports 28 students, all of whom are uniquely talented. Among the young learners is 16-year-old Swagath. His teacher, Ambikapathi or fondly known as Ambika, was excited to show one of his creations, a uniquely imagined rose.

A shop near the school that is set up with the support of the Nedumangad Block Panchayat, sells a variety of handmade goods made by the students and the parents. From cloth bags and paper pens to candles, cloth mats, file boards, jewellery and brooms, all of the products made by the students here are beautiful and useful.

Their newest product, umbrellas, has become a favourite among their customers. Since the schools reopened, umbrellas have been in great demand. These carefully crafted pieces are made by students who were trained by teachers arranged by the grama panchayat.

In their workspace, students sit in groups and make umbrellas while having fun chats. With needles and twine in hand, they sew together the colourful fabrics to make umbrellas.

One of the school’s star students is Sreelekshmi, an all-rounder who has been with the school since it was founded nine years ago. Having previously attended Shalom Special School where Ambika was her teacher, she joined Navajyoti when Ambika decided to run this school.

Manoj Kumar, a 27-year-old dancer is another student of the school. Not only does he dance but also teaches other students too, thereby making an earning. Being a person with disability himself, Manoj knows how to connect with the students and bring out the best in them.

Vimal, 25, another talented dancer, performed his favourite folk dance that he regularly performs in competitions, bringing home prizes.

Supporting the students are five staff members, along with visiting physiotherapists and speech therapists who come four days a week. Their goal is to equip the students with the skills necessary to earn a living independently. The panchayat organises training sessions for both students and parents in various crafts.

“I want them all to be able to earn for themselves. I strive for that,” said Ambika.

“Their transportation is a hurdle, as the school van cannot accommodate all 28 students at once. So, the students arrive in two batches. A request for a bus has been made to ensure that all students can reach school by 10am and leave by 4pm,” said Ambika.

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