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This Mom of 2 Girls with Autism is Using Baking to Empower Her Kids & Many Others

This Mom of 2 Girls with Autism is Using Baking to Empower Her Kids & Many Others

Together Foundation is not just for people with special needs but a place where boundaries are truly dissolved.

Life has been an adventure for Sangeetha Chakrapani, who quit her corporate job to settle in as a happy homemaker for 15 years in Mumbai. A parent to quadruplets—Krishna, Jayashree, Lakshmi, and Jayanthi, everything changed for Sangeetha when her daughters, Lakshmi and Jayanthi, were diagnosed with autism at the age of two.

Although it took her a few years to come to terms with the situation, it certainly made her understand that it did not have to be the end-all. There can be hopes and dreams for her daughters and herself.

For her, the journey of Together Foundation primarily began as a mother.

What is Together Foundation?

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Together Foundation is a non-profit organisation that started in Mumbai in 2015. It works with people with autism and other intellectual impairments, preparing them for independent living in a dynamic, experience-based environment. It aims to help them navigate their lives through the simple things that we take for granted – self-help, personal hygiene, food preparation, meaningful work, leisure time and communication.

The Foundation, primarily, is a bakery with a range of products like cookies, chocolates, tea cakes, and laddoos, as well as sugar-free and vegan products.

Naturally, they have an FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) certification, with a clear outlook of being on par with industry standards, especially regarding quality and professionalism.

The mission of the Foundation is to build the life, communication, and work skills of the intellectually impaired, by giving them a shelter-employment workshop, through baking and various related activities, where they earn for the work they do.

But, the most important factor is to ensure that intellectually-impaired people can cope with life beyond their caretakers, happily.

The Challenges

Manufacturing of paper plates.

“It all started with just one microwave,” says Sangeetha, who knew little about baking. She jokes, “I didn’t even know what chocolate chips were and thought that they were like any other chips like Lays that came in a chocolate flavour.”

Before the Foundation was founded, a company named Purato opened its gates for Sangeetha and her students to bake every Saturday for a whole year! That is when she realised that teaching once a week wouldn’t be enough and that she must teach for at least 4-5 days a week.

And that was when she met her second challenge—that of space. She gives immense credit to her husband, who not only offered her a space to set up the bakery but also transformed the place with adequate sunlight and colours, just the way she wanted it.

Work continued with the addition of one more microwave.

Check out some of the products made by Together Foundation on The Better India Shop!

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Nonetheless, it went on for a year, when finally, HDFC sponsored them with baking equipment, and for their surprise, also offered them a commercial oven for quick and easy baking.

This completely transformed the bakery.

And there was no looking back after that.

At present, the Foundation has expanded to paper plate manufacturing, paper bag block printing, and also opened a shop–the first to be managed by people with special needs and registered under the Shop & Establishment Act.

Sangeetha explains how professional the Foundation is and why it is an important thing for them. “When you work professionally, it helps you rise to the expectations and standards, which certainly gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment in your work.”

The Foundation is a training centre that comprises 16 young adults who participate in activities like baking, packing, designing paper plates etc. Attendance and CCTV monitoring helps them consider each employee’s working hours.

Down the memory lane

The students at Together See Foundation.

There is a great dignity of labour and a sense of acceptance among people with disabilities, she notes.

She recollects a day when she had a visitor who was coming down especially to see her work. It was pouring heavily and the staff members had not yet reported to the centre.

That is when 20-year-old Alby, one of her students, rose to the occasion.

She shares, “He swept the centre, cleared the garbage, dusted the place and made it look amazing. And he did all of it with a smiling face. There wasn’t even a small sign of reluctance.”

Keeping up the professional standards, Sangeetha says, “We do not allow the students to eat while baking, that’s a strict rule we follow–that while baking or packing that you cannot put a morsel in your mouth.”

There is a lot of innocence and beauty in their world. It was one such event, when one of her students, Krishna, took a step forward, during a customer visit. Customers asked Krishna how the cake tasted, to which he replied, “Hume nahi pata, hume kabhi khane ka mauka hi nahi mila. (I don’t know, I never got a chance to taste it).”

And that was when they huddled up for an internal meeting, where it was decided that they would be provided with samples of their work, at the end of each day.

How can you help?

Lakshmi at work.

Sangeetha’s daughters Lakshmi and Jayanthi, now 14, undergo vocational training at Together Foundation.

Lakshmi is the senior Chef Assistant, a hard-working baker who loves to bake, and an ardent fan of Shah Rukh Khan. Jayanthi works in bakery support.

Happily enough, Lakshmi and Jayanthi are slowly but surely making their way ahead through hard work.

Together Foundation is not just for people with special needs but a place where boundaries are truly dissolved.

A long-term goal of creating a group home that would provide lifetime care for individuals with disabilities stays strong in their aspirations list.

Inspired by this story?

Check out some of the products made by Together Foundation on The Better India Shop!

Buy Now

To know more, write to them on or call them on 70211 84634.

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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