Helping differently-abled people to live in dignity

2012-11-28 - One of the ways ABB in India supports disadvantaged members of the community, at the same time as benefiting the business, is by outsourcing work to differently-abled people.
ABB started outsourcing parts of its electrical relay assembly in 2005 to the Sevatirth training and rehabilitation center near a large ABB production center in Vadodara in the state of Gujarat. Since then more than 30 young people have been trained in the work.

The Sevatirth, a non-profit organization in Vadodara which helps people with leprosy and different infirmities, provides them with food, accommodation, medical treatment, physiotherapy and the means to earn a living. For its part, ABB gives the workers the raw material and fabric kits, and provides training at both ABB and on-site so they can assemble and test electrical relays.

ABB pays 50 Rupees (nearly $1) for each assembled electrical relay, and workers at the center earn around 2,500-4,000 Rupees (approximately $45-70) per month. With accommodation and food covered at the center, the workers can save money and support their families.

The sub-assembly work provides employment - and self-respect
Increasing self-esteem
Mesli Sonabhai Naika, 25, says: “This work gives me more respect in my village. By earning my own money I feel like a normal family member who can contribute like anyone else. It has even enabled my family to move into a better house.”

Jayantibhai Machi, who is 30, has been doing complete testing for ABB relays for nine years. The work has not only strengthened his sense of independence but allows him to send some of his money home. “My mother feels good and proud that I am self-sustaining and no longer a burden to the family,” he says.

Not all workers stay at Sevatirth for a long time. Their “apprenticeships” strengthen their self-esteem and help them to integrate into society. Several people have moved on to other jobs such as at the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation.

Mistri Komalben, who supervises the assembly work, says that in India, particularly in rural areas, disabilities are often considered a curse and there are very few institutions to support differently-abled people. “Everybody feels that working here is very good,” she says. “Almost all the workers have an agricultural background and feel comfortable with the infrastructure and the opportunity to learn and take care of themselves.”

Earning a wage povides benefits for both the workers and their families back home
A place of inclusiveness
At Sevatirth many people are exposed for the first time to the idea of inclusiveness. They learn sports, get training, work and receive visitors such as corporates which show them respect and appreciate their work. The fact that they get paid for their work changes how they are treated by their families and builds up their confidence.”

The center is run by Shree Purushottam Panchal, a former mechanical and electrical engineer, who has been doing voluntary social work for the victims of leprosy and disability for the past four decades.

Although earning money is a crucial element to the project’s success, he stresses this is not the only aspect that makes the model self-sustaining. He appreciates the continuity and reliability of the relationship with ABB over the years, saying: “The collaboration with ABB is a credit to us.”

For ABB, the project is a way of contributing to the community, and part of an overall program to be welcome in the areas where it operates.

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Learning a new trade and making money at the Sevatirth training and rehabilitation center in Vadodara