Meet Anil kumar who has a hearing disability. He used to work in a papad factory earning Rs.1500 a month for a daily workload of 10 hours. Then he came to know about Noida Deaf Society and enrolled for their English course in the year 2007. Eventually he got placed in Leela Kempinski Hotels, Gurgaon much to his joy and satisfaction. “I have learnt to commit to my job from NDS, and the value of having a good job and a regular salary,” says Anil.
Noida Deaf Society was started in the year 2005 single-handedly by Ruma Roka and now this organization is impacting over 300 students through its various courses. Here is an interview of Ruma on NDS, her inspiration and the impact she is creating:
How did Noida Deaf Society start? What was the inspiration behind it?
Ruma: I always wanted to do something for the less privileged in our society. In 2004 I learnt the Indian Sign Language. This got me in touch with the deaf community and I started researching about the deaf, their issues and the needs. The more time I spent with the deaf, the more I realized the need to do something. There was no looking back from that point. I realized that there were complex issues facing the deaf in the country including lack of education facilities, lack of resources especially designed keeping the needs of the deaf in mind, no avenues for holistic development and so on. Most importantly there is no access to quality training leading to sustainable livelihood.
I found that in India deaf education was in a bad condition. Deaf students are often forced to speak and use of sign language is discouraged. I also found that since schools are not really preparing the deaf for a responsible and independent life, the deaf end up in menial jobs and get deeply frustrated.
To address some of these issues and to bring about a positive change in this marginalized community, I started an organization called Noida Deaf Society (NDS) in 2005. I started from a small two bed room flat belonging to my husband. I just had five students and I was the only trainer. Through word of mouth the organization started growing. We started teaching English using sign language – since we believe that if the deaf picked up English, they could communicate in the workplace with the written word and hence be employable in multiple professions. Thereafter we started training in basics of IT and subsequently expanded trainings to include Life Skills, Grooming, Desktop publishing and graphics and work ethics. When I started, I was the only trainer but today we are a strong team of 15 which includes 12 deaf trainers and support staff.
What are the projects NDS adopts? How does it go about executing them?
Ruma: Our goal is to enable the complete integration of the deaf into the mainstream through education and specialized vocational programs leading to gainful employment. At Noida Deaf Society we understand the constraints of the Deaf and focus on their abilities to bring out the best in them. We have used the visual medium of IT to enable learning. Training programs are conducted by Deaf trainers as we feel that they best understand the needs of the Deaf and also act as role models for the community. Training is conducted in Indian Sign Language using visual aids and multimedia based material. Our trainings have been developed based on market research and are job oriented in nature.
Training in Life Skills and Work Ethics is a key focus area towards preparing the youth for employment. Regular exposure to the industry is provided through guest lectures by professionals, industry visits and workshops. We are also actively engaging with the industry to build sensitivity and raise awareness about the Deaf through workshops, mentoring programs, collaborative industrial training, employee volunteering and sign language orientation. We have so far been able to employ over 170 youth in leading organizations in profiles such as Graphic Designing, Backend IT and Data Entry, Retail, Hospitality, Teaching, Export Houses, Production Units and so on.
Could you share with us some of the success stories of NDS?
Rumi: Anil Kumar, whom you have already noted about, is one such story. The other is that of Rattan Kumar. Rattan joined the MS Office course at Noida Deaf Society in January 2009. Opportunity knocked when he was close to finishing his course in the form of a contract data entry job at Mobile Creches. They wanted a part time data entry operator. Rattan worked hard and managed well to switch between his roles of a student and of a data entry operator. After his contract got over he was placed in ITC Maurya in Delhi in August 2009. His performance there has been so good that ITC has asked for more candidates from NDS. He has truly been a role model for the deaf and has made us very proud. Despite of coming from a weak family background (separated parents) he has given the best of himself to society.
We have many such success stories put up on our website too.
What are your future plans with NDS?
Ruma: Our student strength is increasing day by day and it is becoming difficult for us to operate from the current facilities. We would like to build a state of the art vocational training insitute for the Deaf, the only one of its kind in the country where we can offer training in multiple trades and enable the deaf to access employment. A permanent facility will also help us to reach out to the many Deaf in the country and enable them to lead meaningful lives. Introduction of new training programs like computer networking and hardware is also on the cards. Another thing that I would like to see happen in the near future is a digitized teaching & learning material for improving English literacy.
Do you have any volunteer or employment requirements that might interest our readers?
Ruma:Yes we do have a vibrant volunteer program where people from all walks of life especially professionals are contibuting towards skill development of our students. We also have employee volunteering programs with many corporates including NIIT and Mphasis.
However, we first encourage people to learn Sign language as then they will be able to contribute in a more meaningful manner. We essentially need help in employment linkages, fundraising, specialized training in computer networking and hardware.
Here is a photograph of Ruma with the entire NDS family:
To know more about NDS and to go through their work, please visit their website: http://noidadeafsociety.net/