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INCHARA - Sweet Voices

Sponsored by The Indian Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and The Association for People with Disabilities (APD), seven hundred and fifty hearing impaired young people and their families joined together for a four day workshop. They came to learn life skills such as Rights to Education, Importance of Skill Training, Becoming a Role Model, Developing Leadership and The Importance of Strong Families.

Called “Inchara”, which means “sweet voices”, this event brought deaf people of southern India to the little town of Shreeramanahally, India. At their own expense they came from all over twenty-one districts in the state of Karnataka and even as far away as Andra Pradesh.  They walked, took trains, buses or any other form of transportation they could find to reach this place of gathering.  For some, it was a multi-day journey of hardship and sacrifice but well worth every challenge of the trip.  In small classrooms they sat on mats laid out on concrete floors. Lessons and student participation were all done in sign language while laughter mixed with sounds of excitement filled the room and the “sweet voices” of the deaf spilled out.  In total, one hundred and fifty classes were held over four days covering twenty-two topics of special interest to the deaf who live in a lonely world of silence.

Beginning and ending each day of class the young students sat in circles in the central courtyard to learn and practice sign language specific to India.  Evening cultural events were held to teach them of their proud heritage. A magic show one night brought waves of raised hands from the audience, which in sign language means 'applause of approval'.  Just as important as the training and programs, however, was the realization for many that they were not alone in their disability and people cared about their future and success.  Lidia Gupta was just one of many young people who expressed, “This workshop has given me a sense of belonging.  I never knew that there were so many other kids just like me. I have learned so much and made friends. It has been really good for me to be here”.

In the Indian state of Karnataka alone there are over 2 million handicapped children of which twenty-five percent are deaf. Many living in rural villages and agricultural areas are isolated from schools for the deaf and depend on projects like Inchara for training and positive reinforcement. Participation by the deaf at this event has increased from four hundred and eighteen in 2010 to seven hundred and fifty today.  

Mr. Guru Prasad, Program Manager for “Inchara” was extremely grateful for the partnership of APD and the LDS Church. Through this partnership, all expenses of meals, lodging, curriculum material, advertising and class supplies were paid for. He remarked, “More good is done to improve the lives of deaf young people that attend Inchara than any other program I have seen in India”.  We appreciate and thank the LDS Church for all their help and support to make this event so successful. We look forward to partnering with them again in the future.”

APD, an Indian organization based in Bangalore, has worked on the comprehensive rehabilitation of economically marginalized people with disabilities for the last 52 years. The LDS Church has been actively involved on several fronts in this great effort.

Through grassroots rural and urban community programs that include therapeutic services, mobility aids, integrated education, advocacy and livelihood training; APD has been able to transform the lives of over 28,000 persons with disability. Much of this work is accomplished through key partnerships such as the one with the LDS Church.

With an estimated 70 million persons with disability in India, APD and the LDS Church are among organizations that are at the forefront of the urgent, nationwide movement to overcome the growing challenge to support, rehabilitate and include people with disability into mainstream economic and social life in India.

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