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Visually impaired ‘touch’ a bright spot

They feel and understand the world largely through their sense of touch. But six months ago,when 10 visually-impaired girl students were told that they would be trained for a career in body “massaging for women,” they were apprehensive.

Written by Renitha Raveendran | Pune | Published: February 18, 2009 1:14 am

They feel and understand the world largely through their sense of touch. But six months ago,when 10 visually-impaired girl students were told that they would be trained for a career in body “massaging for women,” they were apprehensive. Not anymore. Six months of rigorous training has made them confident. So,the first full-fledged batch of students of body massaging at the Poona School and Home for Blind Girls,Kothrud is ready to prove its skills.

The first of its kind in Pune,the course is part of the four-year vocational training programme aimed at rehabilitating visually-challenged girls. The first full-fledged batch of the course will pass out this month and most of them already have job offers from those who experienced their proficiency first hand,and several others are approaching them. The school is partly funded by the state government. Completing the course wasn’t a cakewalk for many,as most of them hail from remote villages of the state and know only Marathi while the course required them to learn the “tough” medical terms in English and understand the human anatomy. But they refused to give up.

Twentynine-year-old Sangeeta,who hails from Borgavasu village of Buldhana district,almost made up her mind to quit halfway as it was too tough for her. But,the thought of her poverty-stricken family back home and the job prospects after finishing the course held her back. “I got a job offer from a doctor for whom I did full body massage some days ago. She said she couldn’t believe I was blind,” she says. Teaching them was also not easy.

According to their trainer Dr Deepa Sathe,from basic things like switching on the light to how to approach a client,extra care was taken while teaching them. “They should first get a sense of the whole body structure and then the anatomy. We taught them Swedish massage steps,which is standardized,so that they won’t face a problem with any kind of massage. Initially,it was tough to teach them medical jargons in English. But as the course progressed,they showed amazing confidence,” she says. Sathe has been associated with the centre for more than a decade and had done a feasibility study before starting the course. “The whole idea was to rehabilitate these girls. Most of them are from the lower socio-economic strata. Even their basic needs are not met,” she adds.

She is assisted by two volunteers,who help the students with practicals.

Mayphan Haveliwalah,another student,is all excited after her first client was highly impressed. “Initially,I was a little nervous. But when she said that I did it professionally,I was on cloud nine,” says 30-year-old Mayphan,who lost her eyesight when she was 21 due to retina detachment.

The four-year course includes jewellery-making,looming,candle-making,stitching and computer training. “Right now,we charge Rs 150 for a full body massage. We will revise it once they complete the course this month. Talks are on with a university for affiliation of the course. We are also looking forward to a tie-up with massage centres,gymnasiums,beauty parlours and women’s hostels,” says Sandhya Nagaraj Rao,co-ordinator of the vocational training programme.

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