ABOUT THE FOUNDER OF THE HELP THE BLIND FOUNDATION

Mr. D. K. Patel 

D.K. Patel is an economist who worked for an international bank in Hong Kong in a senior capacity for over two decades. He and his wife Niti Patel, who taught English as a second language in a local Chinese medium school, are both now retired. They have two daughters who now live abroad with their families. Mr. Patel is a connoisseur of Hindustani and Carnatic music and a great lover of books. Mrs. Patel is interested in linguistics, cooking and gardening. They live in an apartment on Stubbs Road in Hong Kong, a prestigious address. To most, this would sound like the ideal backdrop for a happy retired life.

Mr. Patel thought otherwise. He started the Help the Blind Foundation together with other like-minded non-resident Indians living in Hong Kong and elsewhere who were ready to open their hearts and purses to help blind people in India. It is Mr. Patel's opinion that the leading enemy of the blind is lack of education.

In the year 2003, D K Patel visited Chennai from Hong Kong to attend a wedding. In the early morning, he went for a walk in Gandhi Nagar, Adayar, Chennai. While passing by the St Louis Institute for the Deaf and the Blind, he found that its hostel building was dilapidated. He found that he could not turn his back on the students of the Institute. He constructed a new building with hostel and classroom facilities for the blind students at the Institute. After this, his life intertwined with the welfare of the blind.

The building donated by Mr. Patel at a cost of US Dollars 200,000 was completed in 2005. In 2012, his Help the Blind Foundation presented a new building to the blind students of a secondary school run by the Indian Association for the Blind in Sundararajanpatti, Madurai, Tamilnadu. The building built at a cost of US Dollars 850,000 has several facilities for the blind, including classrooms, offices, a braille library, a computer center and a girls' hostel. In early 2015, the Foundation donated a girl’s hostel and a playground to the Amalarakkini Special School for the Blind in Susainagar, near Aarani, Thiruvannamalai District, Tamilnadu.

Although the Foundation constructs buildings for special schools that cater for blind students, this is not its main function.

In general, blind people in India end their education after high school. One of the reasons for this is their inability to pay the hostel fees of colleges in far-away cities that accept blind students. The Foundation provides scholarships to college-going blind students. This scholarship scheme began in 2008, when the aid was provided to college students who had completed their high school education in the St. Louis Institute in Chennai. Now, the scheme has expanded its reach to over 53 colleges all over India. The cties which the scheme covers include Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Nasik, Nagpur, Pune, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, kanpur, Varanasi, Vijayawade, Bengaluru, and Mysore. By providing scholarships to blind students for their tertiary education, this scheme helps them achieve employment in a trade or service. The Foundation pays the tuition and hostel fees of the students directly to the college's administration. On average, the Foundation provides INR 5,000 to INR 25,000 to each of its scholarship receipients. To date, 367 students have obtained their university degrees under this scheme, and 1065 students are receiving aid from the scheme in the current academic year (2016-2017).

The immediate goal of the Foundation is to assist 2,000 blind students with their tertiary education under the Foundation’s scholarship process, which will help them to study and live alongside other non-blind students. Mr. Patel says this will help them in integrating with the community at large.

The Foundation now has a team of 30 volunteers spread over all major cities of India. These volunteers scrutinise applications, interview students, and distribute the scholarships. The team of volunteers is constantly expanding to keep pace with the increasing number of students who apply for scholarships and receive aid through the scheme.

 

 

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