What is so different about hot meals served by specially-abled orphan children? Just that there will be smiling faces and warm hearts, serving food coated with love and compassion. Surely, one of those things that money can’t buy and, probably, the best reason for you to visit the café!
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Enter the café and instead of the fancy décor, the happy faces of Muskan (15), Asha (14), Anjali (15), and Kiran (15) will greet you, which will be enough to brighten your day.
To get a glimpse into their life, Life Beyond Numbers spoke to the members of the NGO, Drishti Samajik Sansthan and the multiple-challenged kids who help the staff to run D Café 16.
On asking why the name D Café 16? The Joint Director of DSS, Shalu Singh says, ‘D’ here stands for both Drishti (Sight) and Divyang (Specially-abled).
The café, which is a not-for-profit venture, is located at Bhawani Chauraha, Jankipuram, Lucknow and was inaugurated on January 26, this year, by the women and child welfare minister Rita Bahuguna Joshi.
From School to Café
Drishti Samajik Sansthan is the brainchild of late Neeta Bahadur, who established a special school for the visually impaired children in 1990.
Bahadur saw that there was no concrete syllabus for the blind children and decided to change the scenario. She prepared 400 Braille books covering the UP Board syllabus from 9th to 12th class for blind children with the help of a manual brailler. Also, she recorded over 400 audio cassettes covering the same syllabus. This helped the blind students of that School to get 100% result in UP Board exams, both 10th and 12th, with some children, even receiving a distinction.
Since then, this initiative has changed the fate of these kids for better and helped them to take charge of their lives. Even though Bahadur passed away in 2014 due to cancer, but because of her brilliant work, hundreds of children are standing on their own feet.
Now, her son, Atharva Bahadur (24) is the director of the NGO. He, along with Singh had supervised the children’s training for the café.
“The organization offers these kids education and training to have a better future. When these children are above 18 years old, they are taught business skills, given vocational training- sewing, candle and jewelry making, handicrafts. These activities help them build confidence and becoming self-sufficient will be a blessing for them,” says Shalu.
This is the only institution in this state, which was nominated by the Hon’ble High Court of Allahabad for this purpose. The organization works for the complete rehabilitation of the specially-abled children.
The NGO is currently running two projects- a special home and training-cum-shelter home. It houses 250 abandoned, multiple-challenged children. Kids from about 50 nearby villages of Bakshi Ka Talab and Chinhat Blocks are brought by the NGOs own chartered buses and provided education and training. All free of cost.
Hot Meals Served with Love
The café has teamed up with Amul, which is supporting the NGO in this initiative. From ice-creams, burgers, sandwiches, french fries, tikkas to various beverages including fresh fruit shakes, coffee– you name it! And it will be served with utmost care by these multiple-challenged children.
While some are blind, deaf and dumb, others are suffering from conditions like cerebral palsy and autism. But, all of them are efficient enough to take orders and serve food to their customers.
The café runs from 11 am to 7 pm every day. 15-year-old Anjali, who also helps the staff to run the café says, “I feel happy to be here. Muskan, Asha, Kiran also work with me. Running this café is a fun activity for us.”
“No one comes to claim these kids, not even their family. Their own people have abandoned them and so we do our best to make them feel at home and take care of their needs. Providing a safe and secure environment for them is our utmost priority,” says Singh to LBN.
No Monetary Donation
“From 9-month-olds to 18-year-olds, all children live under one roof. Monetary donations are not accepted by this NGO. We accept raw materials like food, clothes, books or any other items that people give these children out of love,” says Shalu.
Atharva says, “For the last 29 years, about 5000 specially-abled children have been helped by the institution to become self-dependent. Some of them have government jobs, others work in factories and shops, and have set up their own businesses as well.”
This is probably one of those NGOs that do not accept financial help. So, if you wish to help them, send raw materials instead.
Something that these specially-abled children have proved in the best possible manner is that Disability is just a matter of perception and we cannot agree more!