Christmas in Beawar

I’m currently in Beawar, a city of around 200,000 people, just south of Ajmer in Rajasthan. I arrived yesterday morning and I’m going to be here for the next few days, camping inside an empty classroom. It’s a quiet city, with a big divide between rich and poor areas. We have an inclusive education school here, and we also have a community rehabilitation project for young disabled adults who suffer from physical, learning, or sensory disability.

I’m here to do a short study on the latter. I’m focusing on 22 men who we’re trying to place with employers, mostly based in villages outside of Beawar. Most of the men work for a family member in whatever business they have, be it tailor, shopkeeper, or farmer. But the families are keen to get them work elsewhere to increase the family income.

Shrawan

Shrawan is 17 and suffers from severe learning disabilities. He works on his fathers stall selling general supplies.

So I’m here to figure out how we can improve the programme, given that we haven’t had much success so far placing these young adults with external employers. Of the 12 service users I’ve visited so far, six work within the family, five are placed with a large manufacturing company, and one refuses to work because – as his family put it – he’s lazy.

The common denominator in all cases is that they need their sons to work to supplement the family income. The average family income of those surveyed is between Indian Rupee ₹4000 – Indian Rupee ₹5000 per month, approximately $100 or £65. Only one of the families I visited is saving money, albeit a small amount. Ten families are neither saving nor going into debt, and one family is taking out loans to fund a computer training programme for their only son, who suffers from polio. They’d all like to see their sons provide some supplemental income for the family, through whatever means.

I believe in equality, which is why I love my work. I believe in the potential of each adult that we work with. But what I’ve really learned to appreciate in the last few days is that what we’re working towards equality not because it’s a lofty, idealistic goal, but because it’s a necessity for these families. While trying – one person at a time – to challenge stereotypes and promote social change, we’re also helping families to support themselves.

Beawar is a nice city, but it’s not Chachiyawas or Ajmer. My NGO didn’t provide a holiday today, which is fair enough, but I can’t wait to get back home to wish a Merry Christmas to my adopted family!

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