In a heart-warming development, commercial and social establishments across Goa have begun employing Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), bringing all-round cheer to those for whom many doors have been opened. Rahul Chandawarkar takes a closer look
Stephen Rebello (20), a customer service associate wipes a long line of fruit juice bottles and places them neatly on the racks in the Magsons Superstore in Fatorda, Margao. Likewise, Kevin Miranda (20), an office assistant wears a big smile as he arranges the files in the office of Sangath NGO in Raia, while Jesus Rebello (27), a shop floor assistant is concentration personified as he inspects a conveyor belt in the bottling plant of the Dimac Industries in the Cuncolim industrial estate in South Goa.
All the three young men in examples above have one thing in common – they are persons with disabilities (PWDs), but trained in vocational skills at the Gujarati Samaj Educational Trust’s Special School in Margao and have gained useful employment in social and commercial establishments across South Goa in the last one year.
This heartening development has brought cheer not only to the PWD community, but to a host of special schools across the State that are toiling relentlessly to equip young PWDs with useful vocational skills, in a hope that they gain mainstream employment.
“I like to work in this store. My colleagues and supervisors are kind and I enjoy my work immensely,” says Stephen, as he continues to work on his rack packed with consumer goods.
Carlos Colaco, the Magsons franchisee is very happy with Stephen.
“Stephen is an extremely hard-working and punctual young man. He has picked up the work quickly and is very happy doing it everyday,” he said.
According to Colaco, the store has an active policy to employ PWDs and is keen to increase this work force in the future.
“It is a win-win situation. We get a disciplined work force and in turn we are contributing to the society’s wellbeing,” he opined.
The situation is no different in the quiet village of Raia, where Kevin dusts and rearranges the office files in the NGO’s South Goa office. As an office assistant, Kevin is in charge of the house-keeping and the kitchen.
“I love working in this office. The people are kind and encouraging. I have learnt to do many new things here.” quips Kevin, who lives in Borda and travels to Raia.
He is of the opinion that more and more organisations must open their doors to PWDs. “I feel many more school buddies must get employment like me and bring home some money,” Kevin said.
Percy Cardozo, Project Lead, Sangath too is very happy with Kevin’s work ethics. “Kevin is extremely hard working and reaches office before anyone else and has been keeping our office absolutely neat and tidy,” he said.
According to Cardozo, it is important to connect commercial establishments with special schools so that young people like Kevin gain useful employment. “Inclusion of PWDs into mainstream society is extremely crucial and important,” Cardozo said.
In the more distant Cuncolim industrial estate, Jesus is all focus and attention as he supervises the water bottles on the Dimac Industries’ conveyor belt. “I have been working here for one year and enjoy my work immensely,” said Jesus.
According to the young man from Quepem, more and more factories and workshops must employ PWDs. “Yes, I feel many more fellow students must gain employment like me. I am able to help my family with the money that I earn,” Jesus said.
Chetan Lakhani, partner, Dimac Industries is very happy with Jesus’ progress at work. “Jesus is extremely focused and determined. In fact, he is more efficient than our regular workers. I am convinced that industries must necessarily employ more PWDs in their workforce,” he said.
Lakhani, member, Cuncolim Industrial Estate Association is of the opinion that industries involved in packaging, food and electronics and super stores and dealers of assorted goods can easily employ PWDs.
Margaret Azavedo, special educator, Gujarati Samaj School is extremely happy with these developments. “It is very important that more commercial establishments come forward to employ PWDs. Employment raises the self-esteem of the PWDs and also helps them contribute monetarily to their family and society,” Azavedo said.