Sristi Village (Joachim)

In India, the intellectually disabled are often relegated to the shadows. Unseen and unheard, families fear the disgrace that may come with the birth of an intellectually disabled child. Within Hindu culture, there is a strongly held belief of re-incarnation. An individual is not their mind, or their body, but their soul. The body and mind that an individual occupies within the material world, is a supposed reflection of a past life. For many, the birth of an disabled child is an indicator of wrongs committed in a past life, and so that fear of disgrace exists. It has assured that the disabled persons of India live under the constant threat of discrimination. It has assured that this portion of society struggles to acquire the treatment they so need, treatment mandated by the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, a convention which was ratified by India in 2007. Ratified, but not yet followed in full.
The Sristi Foundation, or Sristi Village, was founded by G. Karthikeyan with a vivid awareness in the disparity of living, between the intellectually disabled and the rest of society. Karthikeyan was raised in an orphanage which mixed intellectually disabled children with non-disabled children. In their youth, there was no difference, they lived, played and ate together as equals. But as Karthikeyan grew older, more mature, he saw the disparity deepen. As non-disabled children grew, preparing for adult life with employment, education and marriage, the disabled-children remained attached to a child-like state of affairs. They weren’t being prepared for adult life, they weren’t being guided to a purpose in life. According to Karthikeyan. With that void of purpose, the disabled would turn to aggression amongst each other, or they would fall into states of outright discontent and depression. These where his siblings, his family, their struggles touched him as much as anyone’s would. One such brother, wanted to live his life as an auto-mobile mechanic. He was skilled and capable, yet when the time came for employment, his disability assured it wasn’t possible. Karthikeyan attributes that story as the catalyst to his life’s pursuit, to give a place and purpose to the disabled.
Through farming, Karthikeyan sought to create a place where the disabled may find a purpose in life. After nine years as the director of the orphanage he, himself was raised in, he sought to create a place that didn’t help disabled children, there was enough of that, but a place which helped disabled adults. He realized the help disabled adults needed, was help finding a purpose. The answer to his inquiry came with a single sprout. Before Sristi farms came into fruition, as it is today, Karthikeyan showed on of his disabled companions a seed. He tried explaining the seemingly divine process of a seed sprouting, how a seed could become a tree. Shortly after, his companion returned to him in a burst of excitement. He planted a seed, watered it, and days after that seed became a sprout. For Karthikeyan, that excitement solidified the idea which would grow into Sristi Village. The purpose he sought to provide would through farming, he would teach disabled adults to farm, and he would do it in an environment where they would live side by side amongst each other, and non-disabled adults.
Now, the idea continues to grow, Sristi Village continues to thrive in its pursuit. Karithikeyan has successfully achieved a unique form of social development in an area where it is direly needed. With that success, Sristi Village has become a template for future organizations to learn from, in India and beyond. The fact of the matter is, the whole world could learn from Sristi. Intellectually disabled persons have been relegated to the back drops of society the whole world over. Karthikeyan has made it clear that the best course of action, is perhaps not treatment, medication or isolation, but purpose.

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