Living in Bengaluru for 18 years, this American couple has helped over 6,000 differently-abled persons
The couple’s vision has empowered scores of persons with disabilities coming from different age groups in Bengaluru, and continues to do so.
Blood is thicker than water, they say, but sometimes you witness relationships that though special aren’t necessarily related by blood. Benevolence and compassion sometimes surpass boundaries such as skin, race, class, distance or even disability.
Such is the story of proVISION ASIA, a truly Indian non-profit organisation, set up by an American couple in 1998.
Humanity above all
“My parents saw the tremendous need to help the differently-abled, as they have little-to-no-help and are considered ‘outcasts and untouchables’ in this country. This led them to establishing the organisation,” says Keturah Kingery Gray (31), a mother of twin girls and daughter of the founders of proVISION ASIA.
Keturah is an American citizen born and brought up in Bengaluru. Having spent 16 years in the city, she grew up with the proVISION ASIA family and has volunteered with them ever since. She then left to the US where she worked as a manager of a scuba-diving shop in Texas. About five years ago, a business opportunity in Bengaluru brought Keturah and her husband back to the city. “With the flexible timings our consulting business had, I thought why not spend the extra time volunteering at proVISION ASIA. My husband looked to do something worthwhile in his free time as well, and this brought us back home,” says Keturah.
Turning the spotlight on the need to be humane, especially to the differently-abled, who often lack basic comforts in a city that is hardly disabled-friendly, people at proVISION ASIA help spread awareness. They come together to make a real difference in the lives of these individuals who, according to them, are able to do more than we realise and are a valuable asset to any country.
Restoring hope one day at a time
With a focus to create a bountiful life for differently-abled persons, proVISION ASIA conducts practical life-skills training, including vocational training for children with autism and down syndrome, supports with provision of mobility aids, physiotherapy, job placements, education sponsorships, computer training counselling and government advocacy.
“We work with anyone affected by a disability, whether it be physical or mental; all ages; every religion, predominantly below poverty level but we will help anyone who needs our assistance. If we cannot help them at our centre itself, we will send them to another organisation that we network with,” Keturah points out.
But, changing the opinion this section of individuals have of themselves has proven to be an equal challenge as overcoming the stigma associated with disability, even in 2017. But above and beyond these hurdles, Keturah expresses that there is immeasurable joy in seeing a child receive their first wheelchair or watching a disabled father be able to drive his wife to work and his kid to school on his three-wheeled motorised scooter.
Myriad of projects that give life to new beginnings
With a team of 16 members, two of whom are the managers that currently run the organisation, proVISION ASIA, today has a number of people who volunteer with them. This organisation hosts various projects that work towards bettering the lives of this community. Amongst them is the Mithra Special School, established in 2015, that tends to the holistic development of children with intellectual and physical disabilities between the ages of four and 12. This learning centre also has a goal of providing a platform for the parents of these children to work and improve their socio-economic conditions.
As part of the Bangalore Prison Project initiated in 2006, second-hand wheelchairs collected and sent by an international disability centre in the US are refurbished by the Bangalore Central Prison inmates, distributed locally and fitted to each individual to assure best mobility.
The empowHER project aims to provide quality education to differently-abled women in the city. It focusses on teaching spoken English, basic computer skills and personal development. After the three-month certified course ends, the organisation assists these women in finding jobs.
Another notable event that proVISION ASIA is part of is the TCS World 10k marathon hosted in Bengaluru annually, that also acts as a fundraiser for the organisation. “Our participation with persons with disability in wheelchairs, pushed by community leaders and our partners, is an excellent opportunity for advocating inclusion of persons with disabilities in our city,” says Keturah.
Their activities do not stop here. From a wheelchair dance group that displays true ability, to monthly mobility aids distribution in Bengaluru and villages in Karnataka, they also have a job placement platform that has successfully placed persons with disabilities in eating establishments, corporate entities while giving away resources like sewing machines, fruit and vegetable carts to the self-employed.
The NGO has impacted and helped over 6,000 persons with disability.
While the organisation is looking to expand to other places in India and even Asia in the future, they do not see themselves opening new branches at the moment.