For Adults With Disabilities, Life And Employment Skills; Yash Charitable Trust, Dr. Sushama Nagarkar

For Adults With Disabilities, Life And Employment Skills; Yash Charitable Trust, Dr. Sushama Nagarkar

Pooja PatelUpdated: Sunday, May 05, 2024, 09:09 PM IST
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Dr Sushama Nagarkar, Managing Trustee and Founder, Yash Charitable Trust |
Parmesh Shahani, Head of Godrej DEI Lab

Parmesh Shahani, Head of Godrej DEI Lab |

 A mother and a psychologist, Dr Sushama Nagarkar is making adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities employment-ready and finding jobs for them.

When Dr Sushama Nagarkar, a psychologist and a single parent,  returned to India from the US with her two daughters, she observed that  there weren’t enough avenues for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to become employment-ready. 

“As my daughter Aarti, who has autism, grew up, I realised that there was a lot that needed to be done for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. These are disabilities that cannot be cured, so they are for life and so it was important for us to try and figure out ways to help these adults to have good lives,” said Nagarkar. In 2014, she established Yash Charitable Trust (YCT).

The vision has been to provide opportunities for adults with such disabilities to live and work in the communities of their choice, with dignity and self-respect.  

Individuals who enter YCT undergo a detailed interview to know who they are, what they are interested in doing, whether YCT can help them develop skills, find employment or start a social enterprise, etc. “We always seek to know what the individual (and not their family) wants to do with his/her adult life. The person's choices are very important to us,” Dr Nagarkar said. “Our work is not fitting individuals into the system, but building systems around individuals.”

SARIKA NERURKAR

YCT’s Skill Development Centre focuses on teaching skills required in the food and beverage sector, as they observed that this sector works best for them. “They can achieve a certain amount of success because the skills that are taught are very repetitive and are very system-driven. Along with this, they are taught soft skills,” she said. Once the individual is employment-ready, they are offered internships across Arpan Food Services      

Arpan Food Services has a kitchen that cooks fresh lunches and dinners  sent out as dabbas. They also have a bakery for freshly baked breads, desserts and other delicacies. They have one café at an office of Accenture, besides the Juhu-based Café Arpan.

koumudi chouhan

These spaces are all in Juhu, within walking distance of one another. “When they are able to walk between these locations, taking messages for work, buying groceries, being around and being able to communicate to the people at different locations, it shows a very important part of their growth,” Dr Nagarkar said. The young adults are given shopping lists for groceries and vegetables, helping them integrate in the community and sensitising the community.

The YCT goes the extra mile to ensure that individuals who are ready find a job in the competitive employment space. A dedicated team member looks for employment for them, explains to potential employers what YCT’s members can offer and help negotiate with employers on behalf of the job-seekers. “Currently, two of our members are working at SOHO House and two at Smoke House Deli,” Dr Nagarkar said. 

koumudi chouhan

The work extends to the family members of the adults too. Dr Nagarkar said that when these individuals hit adulthood, they and their families  face many questions on what they would like to do moving forward. “Eventually, a lot of mental health issues may crop up. So we offer counselling support services where we have dedicated counsellors who work with not only the adults, but also with their families — parents, siblings, whoever requires counselling,” said Dr Nagarkar.   

Speaking about their work is Parmesh Shahani, head of the Godrej DEI Lab, a diversity, equity and inclusion initiative that works within and outside the Godrej Industries group to create organisations where everyone feels included and can flourish. “I got to know them more closely when we at Godrej collaborated with them to have a small pop-up at one of our events. Their staff is incredibly talented and good at their work and I am really glad that YCT is doing the much needed work of inclusion in this society in such a fun and meaningful way,” said Shahani.

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