Fifteen years ago, in 1996, one small incidence changed my whole perspective to life. My husband, Mr. Anand Badve used to donate blood and give some money to the blind school on his birthday. In Sept. 1996, I decided to go with him. The intention was to peep into the organization, give some donation, come back and resume life as usual.

There, in the corridor of the school, I saw a big line-up of small, cute, innocent children with no vision. They were trying to climb up the staircase of the school- finding it very difficult to find their way- perhaps symbolizing the hurdles they had to face in future life. The age group was between two and a half to six years. One small child came and dashed against me, hugged me and started crying. That home-sick child of two and a half years thought that I was his mother who would take him home. I bent down, touched the cheeks of the child, tears rolling down- flowing on the person of the unknown child who changed my outlook towards life.

I walked out of the school- a totally changed human being. I was 43 years old. I had a teaching background with Masters in English Literature and Bachelors in Education. I had taught both at the college and at the high school level. I was thinking of going into professional teaching once again… but life was to offer different dreams and passions to me that led me to transcend the barriers of material wealth.

It was a unanimous decision, an unwritten contract between Anand and myself, that he would keep earning money for our survival and I would give my life to the cause of helping my fellow human beings engulfed in darkness, negativity, injustice and would offer them the right to live and get education like anybody else.

Next day onwards I started going to the school regularly, meticulously, every day- for three long years. The students in the school taught me Braille. I worked as a volunteer but a very deep emotional bond developed between them and me. I started loving them and was obviously very worried about their future.

There existed a number of schools for the visually challenged students. There however, existed no college, university or a centre to take care of them after they walked out of school. After the age of eighteen they were almost on the street; as according to the law in our country they are asked to fend for themselves once they complete 18 years of age. Most families considered these children as a non productive part of the society. Many a times they had no family to go back to. There was a darkness within and without .Society used the boys and girls for malpractices. All their talent was wasted. This was precisely the point where they needed help and direction.

In the bureaucratic pattern of schooling, it was not possible to take decisions independently. I could not work in the given framework that was desensitized due to many reasons - self-compliance, lack of deep concern for the children, lack of the capacity to envisage your own child in them; so many issues surrounded the problem.

The innovative thought was creation of an autonomous institute that would care for the specific needs of the visually challenged students who aspired to pursue higher education. In fact, it was necessary to tell them that ‘vision is no bar’ for ‘reaching the sky’. I had nothing on hand except my house and the knowledge I possessed in the form of degrees that I had received. These degrees were just indicators of my academic knowledge. Actually, I owe all the innovation to my students who encouraged me to start an organization for them. They wanted a banner, a place, a family, and a support- intellectual as well as psychological- which was exclusively theirs, a roof under which all of them would feel protected.

They, in short, needed a family as they were tired of fighting alone with the negativity that surrounded them. ‘Niwant’ is the only innovative answer to their hopes and aspirations.

The risk involved was tremendous. The lot I was dealing with was loving but was barbaric. Nobody had given them values of life. There was no culture as they had no mother who could shape up their lives occasionally by using strict methods of correction. Can someone believe that they had no toilet training at the age of eighteen? Their clothes used to be dirty, hair not combed properly, their language rough and uncivilized, had no knowledge of English, were absolutely shy or absolutely aggressive, did not know the value of hygiene and cleanliness, were not united as they fought amongst themselves instead of fighting for a common cause. Strength of unity was not known to them as they lived like street dogs with street smartness- the knowledge to survive by hook or by crook, using all selfish means of survival, their strategy being- beg, borrow or steal. They were independent islands- the challenge was to create a township from amongst the above-mentioned lot.

Money? It was not there except for few rupees that we, as trustees, raised. I had to clean, wash, feed the hungry human beings, give them decent clothes to wear and decent educational facilities, a sense of unity and unselfish motive to their lives- hitherto unknown to them. The girls were struck by an attention-seeking syndrome. Majority of them needed tons and tons of counseling to assure them that they have an identity- to give them the courage to say-

“I am blind and beautiful. I, too, can contribute to the beauty of human existence”.

I had only a vast expanse of visually challenged students, solid rock-hard support of all the members of my family members, my daughter Uma who readily shared her mother and the house with thousands of children who walked into the life of Niwant,completed B.E. Mech.by sharing pleasures of life with her new friends,Anand who bore all the overhead charges and helped develop the technical wing of Niwant , volunteers, well-wishers and the unquestioned faith of all those innocent children in me.

The positive and creative energy of youth was on the side of ‘Niwant’. Otherwise who could dream big? Who could risk creation of an Empire out of complete void?

'Niwant' is now is the unique organization that helps visually challenged students pursuing higher education after the age of 18. These are mostly the blind children who are discarded as unwanted by their family members and the society, as non-productive and useless. How can they be useless?There are around 150 to 200 students who come to Niwant every year, get guidance educational facilities,get employment,get married ,have children and settle in life.

They are, indeed,just like all of us or perhaps better than us as handicap is more than at the physical level. at the psychological level

-Mrs. Meera Badve
Director and Founder
Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya