Since 1996, TCT has been networking with Government and other voluntary agencies in the district to organize programs for disabled persons and streamlining assistance for them. From organizing awareness programs, to special health camps, to government assistance camps for disabled persons, TCT has progressed towards setting up rehabilitation services and organizing them into Self-help Groups.
In various meeting with NGOs, disabled persons and parents of disabled persons, expressed the dire need to have Government ID cards. The first Government assistance camp at Ranipet in 1997 made possible the distribution of 170 ID Cards. For the next few years, this became the established practice in Vellore District. TCT was engaged in organizing 30 camps from 1997 to 2009 and a total of 3286 persons received ID Cards. These experiences broadened TCT’s understanding of the disability issue. TCT enrolled ADD India as its partner to train the staff.
TCT expanded the scope of disability work and Self Help Groups of Disabled persons in the villages were formed, along with a larger federation. TCT chose to provide training for the Federation leaders and Self Help Group leaders to take on more responsibilities under the program. This has had a phenomenal impact, and can be seen in the Government benefits reaching the disabled persons. The pro-active Federation representatives work with the Self Help Groups to collect the information on needs of members, assist them with the application, and help with processing the application through different government departments. They also interface with the District Rehabilitation officer to streamline assistance.
The beneficiaries as ‘owners’ were always available for other disabled persons in need. In the monthly federation meetings, they share their anecdotes of the variety of issues they deal with in the community for their members - discrimination, violence, access, rape, sexual assault and unwanted pregnancies. It is noteworthy that their presence is becoming visible in the villages and they are a force to reckon with. They also chose to open a day care center in Ponnai.
In 2004, TCT began its work for the mentally ill. Training input from Vidya Sagar made this possible. Treatment camps for the mentally ill, follow-up at home for those under treatment, training for care givers, awareness programs for different target groups and registration of the mentally ill at the Government hospital were included in a comprehensive program.
Awareness, assessment, intervention training of beneficiaries, networking with NGOs and Government, and the involvement of the beneficiaries have all been integral components of our work. Twelve years in this journey, TCT has the following lessons to share: