Published: 13th March 2018
Blind Bengaluru teacher is crowdfunding to save his school for disabled. Help now
CM Kathavarayan has been running WARDS, a school for disabled children for the past 26 years. Currently, the school is facing an extreme fund crunch even when crowdfunding efforts are in full swing
Let's go back to the 1950s. C M Kathavarayan was just a little boy then. He was cheerful, carefree and would run around with the other little boys. But all that happiness was short lived. Little Kathavarayan suddenly fell sick with a fever. In order to help him recover, his family tried various remedies and cures, which included a herbal eye drop by his grandmother. Although it was successful in bringing down the fever, his family wasn't happy with the outcome because the little boy lost his eyesight in the process.
How devastating it must have been for the child, especially at a time when blind children were considered good for nothing and many taboos and superstitions surrounding disabilities existed. But Kathavarayan fought against them all. He studied hard and successfully completed his BA, MA and BEd. He then went on to secure a job, first as a high school teacher for the visually impaired and later, as a teacher trainer.
But he always knew that he was capable of doing so much more for society, especially for children with mental and physical disabilities. And out of that thought, in 1992, Welfare Association for Rehabilitation of Disabled and Society (WARDS) was born in Bengaluru, to care for children with special needs.
Smile bright: A few students at WARDS
"Kathavarayan always believed that special children are important as they're neglected all the time. Even at home, parents can't understand their problems. But despite all this, so much can be done to help them fit into society. That’s the intention behind the school," says Pradeepa Anchala, the school's treasurer. Eight years after setting up WARDS, Kathavarayan opted for voluntary retirement to devote all his time to the school.
Here, the students undergo speech therapyand physiotherapy and are provided daycare and food, free of cost. Later, they're also trained in different vocations. Most of the children are from nearby slums. "The school's teachers do most of the outreach programmes, they educate the parents about their children's conditions and bring them to the school," says Pradeepa.
But the 26-year journey hasn't been very smooth for Kathavarayan and his children. Shortage of funds is a constant. The school building where the children eat food is one that might collapse at any moment. It also leaks during the rains. The grants allotted by the government hardly ever come on time and hence, the entire burden falls on the blind teacher's back, as he goes around in search of potential donors.
Based on their abilities, the students are divided into four groups. For instance, some children can read and write, while a few can do math. They are trained in different vocations like weaving, block printing and candle making
Now the school is constructing a new strong building with a dining hall, a kitchen and three classrooms, but the money crunch stands between Kathavarayan and his vision. As a final attempt, he has begun a crowdfunding campaign on Milaap in the hope that people will step up and help.
We now turn to Pradeepa, who has been a volunteer at WARDS for the past eight years. "I feel very happy when I'm with the children. Their smiles bring so much peace. Despite all the issues, they still smile," she says, in awe of their innocence.