Mumbai-based not-for-profit Jai Vakeel Foundation, which works for the management of individuals with intellectual disability (ID), by empowering their students, most of whom are born to the poorest families in the country, completes 75 years in 2019. This is a landmark event for the foundation that counts Zia Mody (Partner – AZB & Partners) and Mickey Doshi (MD & Country head Credit Suisse Securities-India) as patrons.

On the occasion, the foundation has conceptualised ‘Champions of Change’ – an initiative to raise funds for the institute, spread awareness and help in long-term sustainability. Sculptor Arzan Khambatta has designed and created a glass fibre reinforced resin sculpture depicting a child. Seventy-five artists have come together, each painting this sculpture in his or her own unique style. The list includes names like Manu Parekh, Paresh Maity, Jayasri Burman, Seema Kohli, Jaideep Mehrotra, Bose Krishnamachari, Vinita Karim, Ravi Mandlik, Satish Gupta and many others.

These sculptures can be viewed at the Tao Art Gallery in Mumbai over the next few days, with the opening night being hosted tomorrow (November 1st). Each of these sculptures have been ‘pre-adopted,’ meaning the foundation already has on board 75 donors who will each pay a fixed amount as a donation towards the foundation, in return for a sculpture. This list includes eminent names like Ajay Piramal, Nimesh Kampani, Rahul Bajaj and Rakesh Jhunjhunwala.

The format is interesting as the donors do not get to choose the sculpture. At a private dinner to be hosted towards November-end, they will pull out numbers (a separate one assigned to each sculpture) and find out the one they’ll receive.

An important aspect of this initiative is to create awareness about ID. It is a generalized neurodevelopmental disorder characterised by significantly impaired intellectual functioning (such as learning, problem solving, judgement) as well as adaptive functioning (activities of daily life such as communication and independent living). Individuals with ID have an IQ under 70 (Normal IQ is 90-100) in addition to deficits in adaptive behaviors that affect their everyday life.

“According to statistics from the National Institute for the Empowerment of Persons with Intellectual Disabilities (NIEPID) (Formerly National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped) in India, 2% of the population; i.e. one in every 50, or over 26 million people suffer silently with their intellectual disability. Though affecting such large numbers, we as a society, are still largely unaware of the space and not actively addressing the unique needs of the intellectually disabled. Aside from the physical and mental hurdles they must navigate each day, they suffer from sheer neglect and stigma.

However, we have seen that access to medical, educational and support services for the intellectually disabled makes their lives much more manageable and meaningful, not only for themselves but for their families and the wider society. “This makes the work we do at Jai Vakeel not just important, but urgent,” says a note shared by the foundation.

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