My first impression of Oprah Winfrey was of the most powerful, giving , intelligent and charismatic woman I had ever seen. Through years of watching her interview her guests, her wit and poise and her philanthropy aimed at the most underprivileged was the reason for dedicating her name as the title of this project dedicated to blind girls.
I was introduced to the Kamlaben Mehta blind school for girls in Mumbai by my grandmother . She routinely volunteers her time at this blind school for girls and helps the girls with basic activities of daily living like grooming and hygiene. During my annual visits to India , my grandmother used to take me along as well.
The students of the blind school despite being differently abled and with limited resources, their spirit and enthusiasm to overcome this major obstacle in life was astounding.I was frankly quite amazed at the skill some of these girls younger than me displayed at playing multiple musical instruments and were equally adept at knitting / sewing/ cooking . I made several friends at the school and do call on them from time to time. Being born with normal vision I was awestruck by these talented girls, their motivated teachers and the setup at the school provided to them by the government.
Time spent at the school motivated me to come back to the US and do something to contribute towards blind education. I toured the blind school in Newark, New Jersey in order to get a sense of blind education in the USA and what I observed when I compared the two systems that although the teachers and students were just as motivated, compared to blind schools in the US there were very few brailers for the entire school . Also, the school in Newark had moved on to digital brailers which were more interactive and facilitated easier understanding of the Braille script thus enhancing faster learning.
This observation about the low ratio of brailers to students at the blind school motivated me to conduct a fundraiser in the USA and through the fundraiser I was able to purchase two brailers from the Perkins school for the blind in Massachusetts for my blind friends in India.
My goal and hope is to eventually be able to muster enough funds to get these kids a couple of digital brailers ( a regular brailer costs 700 $ while a digital brailer costs 5000$).
In addition to education the aim of operation Oprah is also to contribute to basic amenities like toiletries, clean clothes , feminine hygiene products considered a luxury by most of these girls from extremely underprivileged households. The school / hostel is Home to close to 150 blind girls from age 3-40. About a third of these girls are pursuing higher education/ permanent jobs and although they have lodging and boarding due to the government and the school the amenities mentioned above are in short supply .
Eventually the goal is to make sure that each one of these kids some of them my age have the education and the vocational tools to sustain an independent life style and contribute to the society as responsible citizens.If not educated these girls have no hope but to resort to a lifetime of begging on the streets and physical and mental abuse.
At the time of writing this article, the alumni of this school have progressed on to become computer programmers, teachers, musicians, sculptors, call center operators just to name a few and most importantly many of them have gone on to become mothers and start a family of their own.