Lending a helping hand

Pooja Mahesh, Mar 13 2018, 10:22 IST

Set up by the employees of Canara Bank, the Bengaluru-based non-profit organisation, Canara Bank Relief and Welfare Society, was established in 1961 to serve the community. Nestled away from the hustle and bustle of Bengaluru, many of their activities are entrenched in helping the less fortunate arise out of any difficulties that they may be facing. It was with this thought that their activities like geriatric care and adoption of abandoned and surrendered children were started under the initiative 'Mathruchhaya' in 1965.

In practice

Among its many services under 'Mathruchhaya', it's the work done at the Braille Transcription Centre that stands out. It was started to help visually challenged students with their studies by producing books in braille. "The seed was sown when a visually challenged student asked us for help in procuring a braille typewriter. Though he had settled in his studies by the time it came, we decided to make use of it in a manner that would benefit many," says Rajyashree Satish, a volunteer who helped start the Braille Transcription Centre.

The groundwork for this was done in 1989, but it wasn't until 1991 that its operations began. Primarily because they wanted to know the needs of the visually challenged students. "As we visited various schools across Karnataka, we got to know that they did not have access to books, be it for academic purposes or leisure, in braille," says Rajyashree. "Furthermore, there weren't many organisations that were transcribing books into braille."

As the idea took shape, Rajyashree took an initiative to learn the braille script so that she could train other volunteers to read and write it. As the centre's main activity is to transcribe textbooks and other books of interest for students, it was crucial that volunteers were trained to read and write braille. Today, the group of volunteers is over a hundred. "It was imperative for us to provide employment opportunities for the visually challenged by training them to transcribe," adds Rajyashree. Today, they transcribe several books manually (through a braille typewriter) and on the computer (with a software that converts text to braille). "As I had to learn how to use a braille typewriter and the script, it was a bit difficult initially. However, over time, it became easier and faster. I am able to derive immense joy from the work I do," says Prema, a visually challenged employee.

The centre is known for its quality control and error-free copies. The books are proofread twice - once when it's written and again when it has been transcribed into braille as there are style differences. This work would perhaps be impossible without their strong network volunteers who come in a few times a week to help them out. "I enjoy the work that I do. It fills me with a sense of purpose. When I leave for the day, I leave happy because I know I have helped someone in need," says Sharada N S, a volunteer.

Various books are transcribed, edited, proofread and published here. They transcribe books in Kannada (PUC to postgraduation) and English (LKG to postgraduation) for students. Though there were braille textbooks for other subjects, Science and Maths were left untouched. This made many students shy away from taking up Science-based courses, though they were interested in it. Noticing this, the Braille Transcription Centre decided to transcribe them. It is a bit more work - as one needs to take into account the various diagrams - the centre took it up as a challenge. Today, they have a dedicated team looking after this.

Community initiatives

The centre also donates some of the braille books to institutions to help them set up a library to assist students in their academic pursuits. "With braille books and the tactile maps, my daughter is independent while studying. It gives her an idea and the feel of different shapes, how the world looks like and helps her understand concepts better," says Yasmeen, a parent.

It is not just textbooks and storybooks that they publish - they also make tactile maps of the country and State. Apart from this, they publish a bi-monthly magazine, Kamana Billu. It covers various topics of interest ranging from travel to lifestyle. Along with its publishing activities, the centre also organises various training programmes. And, it has a rehabilitation centre for the visually challenged.

While it may be a challenging task, the volunteers and staff at the centre take it in their stride. For more details, visit www.mathruchhaya.net.

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