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On a mission to educate the visually-impaired

Thu, 05/03/2018 - 10:42 -- geeta.nair

MADURAI: For 30-year-old visually-impaired B Velmurugan, life so far has been full of struggles. Fighting against all odds, he managed to complete MA BEd by doing errand jobs. Velmurugan started Thuimai Vizhigal Trust in 2013 to make life easier for others like him and help them complete their education.
A native of Ettikulathupatti near Vedasandur in Dindigul district, Velmurugan hardly has 10 per cent eyesight. His single parent mother put him in a city home as she could not take care of him. His real struggle began when he passed out of school and had to pay Rs300 a month to continue staying in the home. “With no money to pay, I took up errand jobs in the home to compensate the fee and continue my higher education. I wanted to make it a little easier for others, so I started this home, he said.

There are around 50 students in the home who are currently pursuing under graduation and BEd in various city colleges, alongside normal students and those from the elite section of the society. Most of students staying in Thuimai Vizhigal Trust are visually and hearing impaired.

Velmurugan not just provides shelter and food, the students also get computer training, music classes and sport training, everything at free of cost. Inmates are also taken on tours occasionally so that they feel close to nature by playing in the sea and taking a dip in water falls.

“At present computers skills have become essential in work environment and I do not want the children to be deprived of it. With the help of donors we have got 15 laptops for them to get them familiar with technology,” said Velmurugan.

There has been at least 30 more students approaching Velmurugan to enrol in the home, but he has to turn them down with a heavy heart, due to lack of infrastructure. There is neither government support nor donations from any big players. He manages everything with the help from donors and philanthropists. Fow now, the inmates are fed with quality food regularly and occasionally they get to relish on feasts, when people offer food to celebrate events like birthdays.

With very little help from the government, Velmurugan’s struggle has increased to meet the college expenses of students. It takes Rs50,000 for a student per year for college education. Similarly, jobs are also hard to come by from the government sector. While only one per cent is allotted as quota for the visually-impaired, those posts too are not filled, leaving many as a burden for their families.

The quota has lost its relevance as there is no privilege for them. “We too have to get the same mark as the normal person to get the job. What is the purpose of the quota then? I have been trying to get a job for the last five years, without any success,” he said. Volunteering too has also come down as people stop all activism with social media. When asked for scribe to write exams on their behalf, no one turns up, he said.

Velmurugan has made seven students as trustees of the home, while he holds the director’s post.

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