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This Bengaluru Org Is a Beacon for Those With Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy & More

Founded in 1999 by a couple, this Foundation serves as a vocational training centre for the differently-abled.

This Bengaluru Org Is a Beacon for Those With Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy & More

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For Maria Santamaria and her husband, life has always been about giving back to society. Diya Foundation, a vocational training centre for the differently-abled, was founded by the couple in 1999.

This centre, located in Bengaluru’s Kalyan Nagar, has been a light for people living with disabilities, as its name suggests.

Diya’s main focus lies in providing an easy transition from school to employment for intellectually challenged individuals.

What is Diya Foundation?

By providing vocational and life skills related to functional academics, personal-social abilities, general work orientation, interpersonal skills, group dynamics, a positive self-concept and discipline of work, they are helping these individuals and their families live with dignity and pride as well as function with love, respect and confidence.

But most importantly, Diya Foundation ensures that the differently-abled build themselves a support system.

In 2013, the Foundation expanded to a production house – Diya Innovations – as part of their sustainability plan.

Today, this has become an employment option for their students who can meet production targets and work without supervision.

Presently, there are almost 20 differently-abled students from the Foundation who are employed here, creating innovative and creative gift items, candles, chocolates and upcycled products.

At Diya Innovations, each employee is given work according to their skill, whether it’s making Papier-Mâché crafts, data entry or even gardening; they are trained to carry out the job meticulously and also ensure the quality of the products.

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Suman John, a member of the board, says, “With the increasing competition in the gifting industry, it is difficult to create fresh and innovative products to satisfy our clients. Moreover, there are times when it is difficult to translate these ideas and pick up designs which the employees can work on. But the enthusiasm and the energy shown by these individuals help us overcome all of our obstacles.”

The work involved in the production house can often be repetitive and monotonous and can get quite rigorous, especially with preparations for Diwali and Christmas from September to December. But it has also helped them concentrate and improve their attention span.

Transforming Lives

Suresh, 22, who has cerebral palsy, has been a part of Diya Foundation since the age of 18. He has learnt different skills like managing personal finances, home maintenance, caring for personal needs, personal safety skills and responsible citizenship.

The great passion and strength portrayed by him to earn for his family have been a source of motivation for everyone at Diya Innovations.

“Recently, in between work, I saw him apply on to get an extra job so that his mother can stop working as a domestic help. But more than the money, it is the feeling of being wanted by the society and the confidence that he and others get out of working for the Foundation that motivates them the most,” says Suman.

Bhuvana, who was born with Down Syndrome, is also one of the strong members of the team.

She has specialised in the packaging process of the gifts, making paper gift bags and sealing the gifts securely. Her precision and attention to detail are truly striking.

How can you help?

Diya Innovations currently produces a range of products like diyas, gift hampers, chocolates, candles and gift bags. They are now planning on outsourcing the work to the homes of these employees, to increase the production.

They are contemplating including products that will be relevant throughout the year, rather than just the festive season.

Inspired by this story?

Check out some of the products made by Diya Innovations available on The Better India Shop!

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You can also donate to Diya Foundation here.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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