Embracing the power of skills to transform disability into strength

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“People should believe that there is no disability, it’s only in our minds,” said Dr Jitender Aggarwal, Founder and CEO, Sarthak Educational Trust, who has already proved it by transforming his own disability into strength. Inorder to inspire persons with disabilities(PwDs) to strive and succeed in a world where they are most vulnerable, Sarthak Educational Trust has been organising annual Abilympics competitions in collaboration with National Abilympics Association of India(NAAI). Abilympics (Olympics of skills) are vocational skills competitions specially designed for PwDs to enable them to showcase their unique talents. 

“We are all unique in our own unique ways, undefined by our disabilities” was the message Abilympics 2019 sent out by offering an opportunity to disabled people across India to display their abilities and brilliance on one platform. This was the platform where a visually-challenged participant could participate in Flower Arrangement, a speech and hearing impaired could design a piece of exquisite jewellery, a physically challenged youth could design a web page and create beautiful documents and an acid-attack survivor was testing her skills in Beauty and Make-up. 

Determination and focus are the key

Does a physical disability mar our chances of winning a competition? Why determination and focus are the key to take responsibility for our own lives? Questions like these often find answers in inspirational stories of people who made it big despite challenges – physical, mental, behavioural. And, converting every challenge into an opportunity requires skills and sharpening abilities, as a life-long pursuit. Team NSN was privileged to be a part of Abilympics 2019 and was enriched by interacting with them. We are delighted to share the stories that have deeply motivated us,

Flower arrangement

“Once I was asked to give a bouquet to a guest in an event. When I first touched the bouquet, I was fascinated by the way those flowers felt across my hands. Of course I was not able to see the beautiful arrangement with my eyes but my mind started visualising. The sense beauty left me wondering about the craft. It compelled me to ask my mentor, what was I touching? That was the moment when I knew I would love to spend my entire life doing flower arrangement” exclaimed a visually challenged participant under the category of floral arrangement. They way she visualised the designs, and utilised her sense of touch to design those flower arrangements was commendable. Adding to her story, another hearing impaired contestant shared his journey to Abilympics saying, “ understanding the thought behind the arrangement that the mentors were showing us since morning, made it meaningful and helped me come out with my masterpiece.” 

Beauty and Makeup

Being an alumni of Shahnaz Academy, Delhi, Anupama Kumari Rai was Show-casing  her skills in Beauty and Make-up. With a talented hand in facial, manicure, pedicure and makeup she would like to continue her practice even after the competitions. 

Desktop publishing

“ The challenge is good. Getting a chance to showcase my talent and what I have learned over the period of time is really motivating and it filled me with a sense of achievement” expressed Pawan Kumar, a Desktop Publishing  participant, trained from an NGO in Delhi. In 2017 he was enrolled in a 6 month course on Desktop Publishing, after which he was placed at a job. Newsletter creation, site updating, making presentation, creating banners, brochures were some of his rare qualities. 

“Drawing was my hobby, which was the driving force for me to learn Desktop Publishing. I am so engrossed in this art, that despite being a government school principal, I make sure to enjoy my hobby time to time and I try to teach these skills to my students too.” exclaimed Manish Vorodia, another passion driven Desktop Publishing participant. 

Jewellery Making

Abhinash and Prativa, two immensely talented hearing impaired participants shared their experience and journey throughout the competition. Carving their artistic talent on different materials was a way to ensure that their skills were recognised. Both the participants were from Bangalore, Karnataka with 3 years diploma in jewellery making. The regional Bronze medalists converted the design that were provided on paper into a fine jewellery.

Urgent need for awareness

“Jewellery making is now a dying art, just like any other art. Lots of hard work and proper promotion is required to keep it alive. With their intricacy in making jewellery, rural people can really contribute a lot to this. Artisans can be self-employed as this just does not need a huge investment to start a business. To preserve this art and to attract talents there are two things that should be done at the earliest. First is  opening of industries in the form that we people who have degrees should go and make people aware. And the second is to bring out more through competitions for people who have the capability and absorb them in the industry straight away” expressed Ms Bhavana Lihla Schroder, Jewellery Engineer and Gemologist.

Related article: Skills and abilities that overcome disabilities: A note on the 6th National Abilympics and National Conference on Disability https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/skills-and-abilities-that-overcome-disabilities-a-note-on-the-6th-national-abilympics-and-national-conference-on-disability/

The process to mobile and promote skills through Abilympics

“We connect with local NGOs, universities and institutes who work for PwDs and we try congregate these talents for the competition. The interested and eligible candidates from these places can apply online for the competitions. We try to reach out to people through social media. The response is good but still have a long way to go. We will try hard to bring rural talents to this platform with the help of local NGOs and government officials.” said one of the mentors. 

Despite their disabilities, these participants moved out of their comfort zone to embrace the beauty of skill. The healthy competition among each other must have created a sense of achievement in the PwDs. The participants are mostly self-trained and the winners will participate in the International Abilympics, for which they will be trained by NAAI. 

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