As you step into a wide hall above Gaondevi Temple opposite the defunct Milan Mall at Santacruz, you see a few young adults sitting around tables in groups of five or six, engrossed in creating art and craft. Some are sticking tiny little matchsticks in a single line on paper bags while a few others are busy with paints or cutting cardboard pieces into bookmarks. Three instructors supervise them. This could well pass off as a scene from any high school project.
(Clockwise from left) A diary, a trivet, a wine bag, envelopes and coasters decorated with colourful matchsticks. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
However, these special children have neurological disabilities and are a part of Mann’s Employment Cell. Founded in 2011, Mann is dedicated to training adolescents and adults with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Currently, the centre includes 75 students (with 70% from a low socio-economic background) between 15 and 46 years. The NGO also has a centre in Santacruz, a Wellness Centre providing basic functional and vocational training.
The instructors (second from left in the third row) Geetanjali Gaur (Head of Operations), Dilshad Mehershahi (Head of Education) and Beverly Louis (Head of Communications) along with the students at Mann’s Employment Cell
All for a cause
Currently, the students at the Employment Cell are adding finishing touches to the products that will be showcased at Mann’s stall at the two-day exhibition, Design One organised by Sahachari Foundation. On display will be a range of paper products, kitchen items, gifting options, as well as accessories. These include colourful sets of gift boxes and bags (Rs 195 for a small set), well-crafted envelopes (Rs 195 for four), diaries featuring artistic covers (Rs175), gift tags, bookmarks, hot plates, trivets (Rs 195) and coasters (Rs 250 for a set of four), motif earrings (Rs 175) as well as cloth cushion covers (Rs 500). Each product is neatly packed and has a factory-like finish.
Envelopes made by the students
A Chakri coaster
“We started out by training the students with foundation skills necessary to make products. Each student is very unique so the training provided is need based and individualised. After acquiring these skills, they go on to making products that will be showcased at exhibitions and sales.
(From left) Geetanjali Gaur, Beverly Louis and Dilshad Mehershahi at Mann's Employment Cell
Diaries with decorated covers
They also get a stipend every month for all the hard work they put into making each product. They feel great that they too can earn money,” elaborates Beverly Louis, Head of Communications at the NGO, adding that they have been prepping up for the exhibition since two months now.
Understanding the wavering concentration levels of the students, the centre also allows them to run on the treadmill, listen to music or even use the computer, when they don’t feel like working on the products. “However, most students enjoy making these products as their work is not monotonous,” sums up Louis.
Students engrossed in art and craft at Mann's Employment Cell
On: Today (11 am to 7.30 pm) and September 23 (10.30 am to 7.30 pm)
At: The Dome, National Sports Club of India (NSCI), Worli.
Entry Free: To volunteer,
Log on to: www.mann.org.in