Radhika Khanna was studying arts in her college days when she started volunteering at a school for children with mental disabilities. “It was the principal of that school who noticed how I could easily interact with these students and could feel for them. She motivated me to work in this field. I also felt that there was a lot of art in their strokes. Some of them were violent, some didn’t sit at one place, but when given colours, they could come up with brilliant work. Art was the way to go. I thought instead of teaching them Algebra and alphabets, we should teach them art,” she says.
Radhika went on to finish her doctorate in special education and started Om Creation in 1991 with just four students.Om Creations Trust, a training centre for young adults with mental disabilities.Radhika believes that persons with mental disabilities deserve a life of dignity.
She developed a five-year-long diploma course for girls with mental disabilities. This includes arts workshops, communication lessons and skills training like painting, sculpting, baking, cooking, chocolate making, gift packing, etc. The course is conducted at S P J Sadhana School, a special school that enrolls children above the age of three. Once they finish the diploma, the girls come to Om Creations that has three centres across Mumbai. Here they work on specialising in any particular skill of their choice.The courses include Om foods, Om arts and craft, etc. The girls then search for employment opportunities.
Radhika claims that the programme has 93% success rate. While some of the students continue working in different departments at Om Creations itself, some go for jobs outside. The Om Creations’ products they sell include paintings, gift bags, wallets, scarves and food. According to Radhika, the day-to-day activities contribute to a creative healing therapy for these young adults. Over the years, Om Creations has worked with over 10,000 women.
They suffer from different mental challenges like dyslexia, Down’s syndrome, etc.
Talking about the initial challenges, she adds that most people had no faith in individuals with disabilities and so her work was also to change their mind-sets.
Up to 40% of girls at Om Creations are from low-income backgrounds. There are a total of 17 specialists and few caretakers across all centres. Even though arranging funds has been a constant struggle for Radhika, her team is persevering with the help of friends, family members, and donors. Om Creations is now working towards developing nine skill centres where the girls can live and work.
“The main aim is that the girls should get a meaningful payback. Many of these girls would have otherwise been locked in a room somewhere. We create an effective environment for change. They are respected at homes and are not looked as burdens. Instead of making them consumers of tax, I wanted to help them become taxpayers,” Radhika concludes with a proud smile.
To know more about Om Creations and contribute, visit here.