By Heather Hintze
TAMIL NADU, India — About 10 percent of people in India live with a disability.
With a country of more than 1.2 billion, that’s more than 120 million people.
For many disabled people in India, it’s nearly impossible to find work. The Agape Rehabilitation Center in Chennai works to give them the skills to hopefully find a job.
The Eugene non-profit India Partners joined forces with the Agape Rehabilitation Center ten years ago.
The partnership allowed them to make a much-needed move to a bigger facility.
“Our students have special needs so a regular computer center might not patient or modified to suit their needs, so this special center is very essential,” said Agape Coordinator Avitha Daniel.
The students are working through a one-year computer training program, and each of them has a different disability.
Saravanah lost his leg when he was two years old after being hit by a bus.
Others have been crippled by polio.
Prem Kumar has cerebral palsy.
“Agape is really helpful for students with disabilities like me because we are able to learn in our own place and I’m so grateful I’m studying here,” Kumar said.
“It’s really satisfying to work with people with disabilities because they respond back to you with their love. Once you make the first move of reaching out to them because they are being helped very much, they respond with love,” said Agape Director Daniel Victor.
Agape even has a program that allows blind people to use computers.
Pricilla couldn’t see from the time she was born, and Roni lost her sight to measles when she was three.
With the help of the JAWS, or Job Access With Speech program, they can surf the net and check email.
“I think it gives room for a lot of creativity and there’s so much joy around, so I like that,” Daniel said.
Throughout the past 15 years Agape has had more than 250 students.
Instructors say the center provides more than just computer training. It gives disabled students a place to belong.
“I think the most important thing they gain here is confidence. Most of them would have been discriminated against or given a sense of no hope or worthlessness so once they come here and know they are being treated like equal human beings that improves their self-worth to a large extent,” Victor said.
“Basically we want to have a place where any disabled person can walk in and feel comfortable, loved, cared and at peace,” Daniel said.
Agape is holding classes in its rented facility right now, but it has an acre of land and plans to build a permanent facility sometime soon.