“I very much remember the words of Mother Theresa who once said that ‘loving hearts to love and willing hands to serve is the best medicine for unwanted.’ I pretty much can say the same thing about Samanvai… Samanvai’s support makes me feel that I am not disabled but differently abled and can do anything on par with sighted students.” –Sridhar, Samanvai student and mentee

Eighteen-year-old Sridhar has not let his disability prevent him from achieving a quality education and dreaming of a brighter future. Sridhar is a creative, hardworking and excellent student, and his life ambition is to become an innovative and ethical manager in finance. He is a native of the small village Taallapusapelli near Moinabad Mandal of the Warangal district, one of the 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh, India.

Having been born to an economically disadvantaged family, Sridhar has cultivated a drive for education and hard work to support his family. Sridhar’s family includes a carpenter father, homemaker mother, and brothers and sisters. Sridhar has been blind since birth. Growing up in the village, Sridhar experienced a lot of negative discrimination and prejudice from relatives and neighbors due to his blindness. Yet Sridhar did not lose confidence or hope. Unfortunately, even today, many people of rural India think that being visually challenged or disabled is a sin.

Fortunately, Sridhar’s parents were not among those who discriminate against people with disabilities. His parents were very much determined to bring Sridhar up to make him a proud citizen of the country. They gave him good care and protection within their economic potential. Usually, blind students are afraid to attend sighted schools as those schools may not admit disabled students and also they may not give good attention and care as they think that these blind students are not capable of studying alongside sighted students. However, Sridhar broke that barrier of attending normal school up to 6th grade.

Sridhar had partial vision when he was small. Unfortunately, his eyesight worsened as he grew older. Then his parents thought it would be useful to put him in a blind school where all blinds students are given quality education with assistive technologies and Braille and math tools. That is where Sridhar’s life took a different path. He worked very hard and passed his classes with good grades. Sridhar acknowledges his hard work in scoring 70 percent in his tenth grade public examination.

When I asked him about how he got in touch with Samanvai volunteers, he replied, “I have been receiving guidance and mentorship from Samanvai volunteers from my ninth grade. One of our teachers is the member of Samanvai, so she has been guiding many students from our school. In addition, Samanvai volunteers know the importance of guidance, especially after tenth grade, so they visit schools and inspire students with the potential help that Samanvai can provide students to complete their studies. That is what happened with my case. They assured me that they will support and they are supporting me now with my college tuition fee, living and boarding fee, books, educational tools like voice recorders, audio material, computer training and much more!”

As Sridhar mentioned, in Andhra Pradesh, students with disabilities suffer after their tenth grade due to lack of mentorship, financial assistance, educational material, skill training and so on. Up to tenth grade, many blind schools offer free education, living and boarding, but after tenth grade, students would like to enter into mainstream learning.This where Samanvai lends a hand. Samanvai offers various support services that can help students to complete their education and get employment. Please browse the Services section to learn more about Samanvai’s services.

Now Sridhar is pursuing intermediate (twelfth grade) in Bhavans College, Hyderabad. Sridhar is able to compete with sighted students and do very well. He has good mobility and can travel alone without help. Sridhar mentioned that his teachers are very happy with his performance in class. When asked about how he is able to do well in education he replied, “Many students who are blind are not able to study well because of lack of study material and guidance. Fortunately, as I am receiving required support services from Samanvai, I am able to do well. So I request many more students to come forward and get help from Samanvai to study like me.” In the future, Sridhar would like to do an MBA in finance and become a financial analyst for multinational companies.

I was curious to know what Sridhar’s relatives and neighbors’ attitudes are now that they see him as a successful student; he stated, “My relatives who never spoke to me or who discouraged me when I was small are now very good friends with me. They changed their ignorant mindset and their negative thoughts. They all like me and encourage me to do better in the future. This gives me confidence.”

When I asked him about how Samanvai volunteers treat students with disabilities, he answered, “I very much remember the words of Mother Theresa who once said that ‘loving hearts to love and willing hands to serve is the best medicine for unwanted.’ I pretty much can say the same thing about Samanvai. They never expect anything from students other than us getting good grades, and being successful. They show their love and willingness to help students like me. They treat us like their own kids. Samanvai helped me a lot in learning computers. At first I thought learning computers is very tough but to my surprise Samanvai has made it so easy with innovative course curriculum, easy teaching methods and high configuration computers. Besides this, our computer instructor was very friendly while he taught us. Samanvai has given me moral and emotional support whenever I needed. Samanvai’s support makes me feel that I am not disabled but differently abled and can do anything on par with sighted students. I owe my deepest depth of gratitude to Samanvai volunteers.