Mentally-challenged kids mix Diwali fun with business

The quiet precincts of the Kamayani School for the mentally challenged at Gokhale Nagar, and the associated Kamayani Udyog Kendra provide for an unusual setting for Diwali. A hundred children from the Udyog Kendra and 18 from the school came together on November 6-7 for sale of products crafted by them.

The array of products they sold saw a wide audience not just from nearby but also from across the city.

Kamayani School principal Ashok Kulkarni said, "The entire idea was to promote vocational training. Students above the age of 18 receive vocational training here. Basically round the year they are taught candlemaking and other skills. We held an exhibition at Atre Hall on November 6-7 where products like Diwali sweetmeat, clay figurines, paper lanterns and candles were sold."

The students had been working on it for months prior to the event. Kulkarni said the sales were good and in the two days the amount generated was around Rs 30,000.

He added that the money generated is used for two purposes. "Part of it is reinvested in the workshop and the school to purchase supplies and equipment for students. The other is deposited in accounts of students at the nearby Canara bank. The joint accounts are managed by their parents. It helps students to get a firm idea of earning money and also saving it."

The two-day exhibition-cum-sale saw 150 lanterns being sold. On top of that there were two orders of a 100 lanterns each, Kulkarni said. Candles were also a hit. "In fact we sold a variety of candles, from scented candles to ones in various shapes and sizes. We sold over 6,000 candles in two days. Other things sold included tooth powder, rangoli, moulds for rangoli and Diwali food."

Kalidas Supathe, manager of the workshop said, "About 80 per cent of the work is done by students. We only give the finishing touch. It is a good thing that these exhibitions and sales help to not just to earn but also give them the joy of creating something and contributing to society. It makes them hold their head high."

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