#StickYourNeckOut

Karthikeyan Ganesan – India

Sristi Foundation – A Journey towards my dream

My name is Karthikeyan and I come from Pondicherry, South India. I spent 15 years in an orphanage which enriched my life immensely. This orphanage, called Baby Sarah’s home (a unit of Integrated Rehabilitation & Development Centre – IRDC), is a very special place. It fosters 111 marginalized children, non-disabled and intellectually disabled. In our home we were equal. We played together, lived together and helped each other out. Everyone had their responsibilities. Only in the outside world did the differences become more visible. I could go to school, my intellectually disabled brothers and sisters couldn’t. 

Later when we grew older, those of us who were part of the mainstream found jobs and felt integrated into society. But our intellectually disabled siblings were still not accepted and treated with pity rather than empathy. That made me angry. I felt it was unfair to underestimate their abilities. I felt that their potential was not utilized. 

Karthikeyan Ganesan – kanthari Dream Speech

One of my brothers did not have a chance to go to school. But he was lucky to join a vocational training course for becoming an automobile mechanic and was very skilled. But finally he could not get a job because the employer looked at his disability, not at his possibility. 

During my stay in the orphanage there were a few incidents that changed my perception on what needed to be done in order to unleash the potential of people with intellectual disabilities. One of my brothers has a moderate disability and he who was always quite independent, changed his personality when we grew older. As a child amongst other children he was fine. But once he became an adult he didn’t feel valued enough. I had the impression that staying amongst kids didn’t foster his potential. Many times I had asked myself whether this could have been prevented through establishing a community where non-disabled and intellectually disabled adults could work and live together and where everyone would be provided with opportunities to live up to their full potential. These experiences made me to found Sristi Foundation in the year of 2013.

Sristi Foundation, a non-profit organization is based in Konamangalam Village, Villupuram District, Tamil Nadu (30km from Pondicherry). The organization runs several projects, all working to empower disadvantaged and disabled people. Sristi Foundation runs several different projects. 

Our Sristi Special School welcomes young rural children with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who are excluded from mainstream education, and provides them an education tailored to their specific needs.

Sristi Village is a self-sustaining farm and village for individuals with disabilities and others who are marginalized in society to live in a safe, secure and nurturing environment. Set over almost 9 acres, the Village currently houses 50 members who live, eat and work communally on the land. The Village is a peaceful, inclusive and friendly space where everybody is treated with respect and encouraged to reach their potential, with the ultimate objective of giving members skills to earn independent income.

Sristi also undertakes research and services in the field of Intellectual disabilities in India.