WORTH (WOrkshop for Rehabilitation and Training of the Handicapped) Trust, started by the Swedish Red Cross in 1963, combines commercial and rehabilitation work in a fully self-sustaining model. It is unique as persons with different physical challenges can be seen working together. Perkins Braillers, Universal Braille Bag for children, auto parts, toilet seats, digitization of books, mobility aids, rehabilitation for hearing impaired and children with special needs and outreach programs – all these reflect WORTH at work.
Do you remember leprosy? Do you see people with leprosy? Let us get to something more relatable. Are you aware that the number of blind people has reduced? So have people’s hearing and speech disabilities. Have you wondered why?
The number of children born with such disabilities has largely remained the same, but there is so much being done through early intervention and rehabilitation, that when these individuals grow up, they are becoming independent and self-sufficient.
The reason for this welcome change can be attributed to many factors – Government schemes, better health care and an increase in awareness.
I, for one, have seen the change happen in my backyard, and after visiting several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), I have realised that they are angels in disguise, working silently for the good of society.
Out of the many NGOs in India (and probably in the world, too), WORTH Trust, stands out as a one-of-its-kind, self-sufficient, welfare-oriented, change-making enterprise model. This is the story of an extraordinary organization that turns 50 on 5th September, 2014.
In the early 1960s, leprosy was a dreaded disease in India, leaving those afflicted in a deformed, disabled and distraught state. Besides suffering from physical disability, such persons faced the huge burden of being socially ostracized, and even isolated from family and friends.
In response, the Swedish Red Cross (SRC) started a rehabilitation centre in Katpadi (a part of Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India) in June, 1963. Breaking away from its traditional activities, the SRC offered training in Light Engineering to persons with disabilities, including those affected by leprosy.
Gradually, sub-contract work started trickling in from major industries. Eventually, the workshop became economically viable and self-sustaining by 1975. A Trust was formed in 1976 to manage its activities. The SRC withdrew from a mode of direct action to supporting the newly formed trust. Thus was born WOrkshop for the Rehabilitation and Training of the Handicapped (WORTH) Trust.
Today, WORTH, which had been under the leadership of Antonysamy – a pioneer who has been a beacon of hope for people with disabilities – almost since inception and for about four decades, has changed guard. New blood has taken over, and with time, the organization, too, has changed. It is one of the largest producers of aids for the visually challenged, and the only producer of the world-famous Perkins Brailler, a one-of-its-kind typewriter for the blind.
The Assistive Aids product range of WORTH encompasses wheelchairs, prosthetics, mobility canes, motorised arms, tricycles, abacus, assistive geometry sets and more.
The organisation runs a transitional school for children with disabilities, taking care of blind, deaf, mute and, from recently, even mentally-challenged children. They have a dedicated Early Intervention Centre for children between ages 1-3, so as to make them self-dependent and capable citizens of tomorrow.
It also runs an Outreach Program that sensitizes public about differently-abled people and how they can be rehabilitated at WORTH. The outreach program has workers posted in villages near Katpadi and Vellore where they not only sensitize, but also take into their fold, children and adults with disabilities.
To support its welfare and social empowerment programs, WORTH Trust has a business division called WORTH Industries. It is a separate business entity, which is professionally run and has been a profitable entity since inception. Operating several units at Vellore, Trichy, Pondicherry and Chennai, it specialises in automotive ancillary manufacturing and tooling. More than 70% of its employees (about 500 in number) are differently-abled.
Watch this video to know all about WORTH’s work:
We salute the organization that has been empowering and adding worth to the lives of thousands of persons with disability for 50 years.