Stories of Transformation
Diya Foundation believes that each individual has a unique life story. To help each differently abled individual chart a path that’s personally fulfilling for them, Dia Foundation acts as a catalyst. We offer spaces in which these individuals can maximise personal abilities, learn vocational skills and get involved with family, friends and society in ways that help them live as independently as possible. Diya Foundation is an instigator, bridging the significant gaps that differently abled individuals otherwise face once they complete school. Here we help them transition from school to work and on to charting a life path of confidence, happiness and security.
Our happiest stories are of the life changes we help bring about in individuals who before engaging with us never saw themselves as being capable individuals who can lead high quality lives.
A family grappling with difficult circumstances, the untimely death of the father, five mouths to feed and a mother struggling to keep the family afloat by giving Arabic lessons – this was Ayesha’s story when she came to us. The oldest of five siblings, her initial interactions at Diya were almost nonexistent. Uncommunicative and childlike in her behaviour, Ayesha’s mum was extremely concerned about what her daughter’s future would bring. Besides her intellectual disability, Ayesha often picked arguments with her siblings and gave her mum a hard time, demanding luxuries she couldn’t provide. Ayesha’s mum was terrified at the prospect of a future in which the a totally unprepared Ayesha would have no one to look after her.
The team at Diya however, is all about seeing possibilities where none seem to exist and making miraculous transformations happen. With patience, a ton of encouragement and validation, Ayesha slowly began enjoying her work at Diya. From monosyllabic responses, she now enjoys making friends and chatting with the staff. The same young girl who was described as being difficult is now a great team player and excellent at her work. From making papier-mâché bowls to painting terracotta lamps and even being associated with the computer data entry unit, Ayesha’s standards of work and productivity have grown so rapidly that she has been employed with Diya Innovations Pvt Ltd (the employment and marketing arm of Diya Foundation) since April 2015. The sea-change in Ayesha’s outlook naturally translated to changes in her attitude at home. Ayesha now has a sense of responsibility that goes far beyond what her mother ever imagined. Her infectious smile flashes often as she speaks of how much she enjoys making money and her goal of supporting her whole family. Ayesha’s success with her goal is not too hard to imagine since her productivity now matches that of the staff members at Diya.
The Diya Foundation team however believes in pushing our boundaries when it comes to the word ‘impossible’. We believe in envisioning futures that even families of our trainees cannot fathom and then making those futures happen.
Ganesh after his time at Diya is a different person. With time he began slowly saying yes to challenges rather than assuming he wouldn’t be able to conquer them. Even his daily commute has become a matter of pride for Ganesh. From commuting using Diya’s Foundation’s van in the beginning, he now uses public transport for his daily commute. Confident and assured, he has no hesitation when it comes to knowing which bus to board and the stop at which he has to disembark. A go-getter and a person who thrives on challenges, his limp and his other difficulties are just a part of the wonderful life story he’s scripting for himself. Whether it is making papier-mâché bowls or even taking on the task typically done by staff members – completing the final step of painting the bowls, Ganesh is a skilled worker and a great team player. Excellent at making paper lanterns, he has even taken on the task of training his new colleagues and patiently shows them how tasks are done. His understated efficiency and charm make him a staff favourite. Ganesh’s parents are ecstatic because changes like the ones that Diya has wrought in their son has opened up the possibility of dreaming big for his future. The next step for Ganesh is one that he knows he is ready for – spreading his wings to find a job outside Diya.
A speech impediment is not a minor problem. But when combined with being differently abled, it can affect a person’s self-perception, ability and willingness to make friendships, as well as what others think you are capable of. Rakesh’s speech impediment added another aspect of immense struggle to the ones he was already facing as a differently abled person.
Withdrawn and shy when he joined Diya, Rakesh was even hesitant to introduce himself. Taking the time to engage in simple conversation was something he saw as being unnecessary especially since people typically don’t have the patience or interest in listening to what he had to say. But the staff at Diya are great at what they do for a reason. Their calm persistence slowly made Rakesh curious about exploring his potential. While he is still soft-spoken and quiet, he enjoys taking charge and getting things done. A consummate team player, he even volunteers for tasks that aren’t his responsibility. This was never more evident than recently when the staff at Diya were working on a big order for candles for the online retailer Myntra. Joined by a group of volunteers from a corporate firm who were teaching the trainees at Diya to safely cut the shrink wrap covers and seal it on one side with a sealing machine, the staff has their hands full. When the volunteers left in the afternoon, Rakesh quietly took their place and started sealing the covers just as they had done. Not just that, just a week later when the staff were shrink wrapping boxes with a hot blow drier, he again volunteered his help. Once he was given safety instructions and he had wrapped a couple of boxes under the guidance of the staff successfully, he began working independently.
Capable and affable, Rakesh’s personality has made itself known now. His quiet confidence and his big grin, the evidence of a job well done, have become intimately associated with him. He enjoys the challenge of applying himself to learn a new skill and his expertise is evident in the papier-mâché bowls and newspaper bags he makes and the terracotta lamps that he paints.
The shift that happens when a person who is blind to her own potential suddenly realises that she is extraordinary in so many other ways is electrifying. Mehek’s story is one of tamped down effervescence and discouragement that came from a lack of challenge in her life. The oldest of three daughters, she came to Diya as an immature and rebellious child who was deeply resistant to the responsibilities her family expected her to fulfill. Beginning as a member of the team making paper bowls, Mehek’s task was to cut the paper needed for the papier-mâché bowls. This was her initiation into making friends and enjoying the high that comes from a day of engaging work. The team at Diya quickly realised that the trick to keeping Mehek interested was to constantly challenge her. Sure enough, Mehek turned out to be a quick study.
From teaching herself to make paper pens, to making magazine holders on her own without any assistance, and painting terracotta lamps, Mehek has now moved on to learning kantha embroidery. Incredibly productive, her speed when it comes to wrapping chocolates is well known at the Diya Foundation. Meanwhile, her naturally vibrant personality made its presence known and she began making friends. Charming, chatty and a go-getter, she loves helping her team members and enjoys taking on the role of the trainer in the absence of one. She even goes so far as to assigning tasks to the other team members. Her family life has understandably transformed too. Responsible and helpful at home, she has taken on the mantle of an older sister and also helps with chores such as making tea, washing vessels and cooking some of her favorite dishes.
Change can be as overwhelming as a tidal wave. For Raisa, coming from a Muslim family that sheltered her for most of her life, joining Diya was a move that demanded a lot from her. Initially, the rules and routines, the work, and the swirl of activity around her left her feeling bewildered. Her hands trembled with nervousness as her shy and reticent personality was constantly challenged. Even greeting the staff or her friends at Diya was a struggle for her. However, this scenario didn’t deter the staff at Diya who are known for their passionate sense of seeing immense potential in every new entrant. Working with Raisa, they helped create yet another story of tremendous transformation. Beginning with making papier-mâché bowls, she now makes magazine holders without any assistance. With a constant smile on her face, Raisa is especially great at communicating with her team members.
Raisa’s leadership skills has grown immensely and in the absence of Raju, the trainer of her group, she and Mehek take on the tasks of allocating work to the others, ensuring everyone has the raw materials required and also making sure that the workspaces are clean at the end of the day. Not just that, her diffidence has given way to a cheerful girl with a charming personality who enjoys taking part in dance performances. Raisa has even expressed a desire to find a job and this deep sense of responsibility that she has also extends to her family. She often helps out in the bakery that her parents own by interacting with customers, arranging products on shelves and helping with the billing.
The much-indulged younger son of a pastor, Sheffan led a very sheltered life till he joined Diya Foundation. Used to not lifting a finger at home, whether to do chores or even help out with simple tasks, he was confounded by the idea of work when he joined Diya. He did not see the point of the training that he had to undergo and spent most of his time lolling about in his chair. Not used to working, Sheffan’s fine motor coordination was weak and he had to begin by learning how to hold and cut paper to make various paper products. His disinterest was apparent to everyone and he used way too much glue while making a product, most of which ended up all over his body and clothes. However, everything changed the day Sheffan got his first allowance which he ended up donating to the church. He suddenly realized that he now had a salary and could become a contributing member of his family. This realisation obviously gave him an immediate sense of self-value and importance. His interest in work and his motivation levels shot up and he began to work diligently. Not just that, he was careful while making the bowls so as not to get any gum on his clothes and hair. Having steadily progressed, Sheffan can now make a papier-mâché bowl without any assistance. Needless to say, his parents are thrilled to see how far he has come. Despite being introverted and quiet, Sheffan is quietly confident and stands his ground when it comes to heated discussions with his team members.
For a young adult with with cerebral palsy, life is a series of of enormous physical and emotional struggles. Despite this, Prakash, one of the trainees at Diya has studied up to 12th grade. A much-loved only child, Prakash struggled with tasks that required detail and fine motor skills when he joined Diya. Extremely distractible, he would avoid work and constantly play with other wheelchair-bound trainees. But the loving and stimulating atmosphere at Diya slow began to work its magic. He was coaxed into joining the group that makes papier-mâché bowls and watching his friends work independently inspired him to challenge himself. From being extremely distracted, playful and not very productive, Prakash has progressed to making papier-mâché bowls on his own, giving it a brilliant finish.
Prakash’s deep sense of courage has him constantly pushing himself to conquer the many challenges he faces. Far more independent than when he first joined Diya, he is able to walk short distances on his own which he previously couldn’t do without assistance. Prakash’s strong will and never-say-die attitude is also evident in the fact that he is now able to climb up and down stairs by himself. Being immensely conscientious, he works without assistance or supervision. A natural result of his rapid progress, Prakash is now far more self-assured and mature.
Haven’t you heard about how flowers cannot bloom without sunshine? It’s the same for people. Despite the many hurdles that Diya’s differently abled trainees face, it’s the sense of freedom and independence that Diya nurtures in them that allows them to come into their own. Abhilash came to Diya Foundation with little to no social skills. Being part of a joint family and the much-coddled only child of his parents, he was always homebound and would not even step out of the house for simple chores. Being used to his own company, his sensitivity to others and his people skills were minimal. Abhilash’s time at Diya has wrought big changes in him. Though he prefers working alone, he instantly notices the absence of a team member and enquires about them. He has become present to the needs of others and is cooperative, friendly and an invaluable team player.
Never waiting to be asked, Abhilash often voluntarily helps staff when he sees a need. As Abhilash took on more responsibilities and learnt skills at Diya, he made significant progress. A keen listener, Abhilash is known for following instructions impeccably and works wonderfully without any supervision. Adept at making papier-mâché bowls and lanterns, he also assists in the screen printing unit when needed. His increased productivity, ability to be supportive and cooperative and willingness to learn has earned him a work placement in Diya Innovations Pvt Ltd.