ASHRAYA’s initial goal was to provide education to Indian blind students through talking books. We started the process of getting books from India based on the needs expressed by the schools; recording them in the US with the help of our friends in the Indian community; duplicating and sending copies to the schools in India. Between the years 1991 and 1992, 120 books were recorded in English, 15 books in Hindi and 100 books in Kannada. Duplicated copies of these books were sent to four schools in the state of Karnataka, one school in the state of Tamil Nadu and one in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Main Organizations Supported

Mitra Jyothi Blind Welfare Organization, Bangalore

In 1993, we set up a recording center called Gnana-Vahini in collaboration with Mitra Jyothi, a blind welfare organization based in Bangalore. The main charter of Gnana-Vahini was to provide Talking Books for the Indian blind student population on a continuous basis. ASHRAYA funded the entire set-up of Gnana-Vahini including the construction of a soundproof recording studio, a duplicating machine and a state-of-the-art recording system. ASHRAYA provided GNANA-VAHINI its operational expenses of $2200 per year (from 1993 to 1995). This covered the costs of blank cassettes and textbooks used in recording, trips made to schools, equipment bought locally, and the salary of a full-time Project Coordinator. Gnana-Vahini currently has a 20 member volunteer base proficient in many Indian languages and English. Gnana-Vahini has recorded over 800 cassettes (300 books) in Kannada, Tamil, Hindi and English, based on the requests sent by schools and individual users. These cassettes are duplicated and sent to many schools and adult blind welfare organizations all over India. All Talking Books are provided to the users free of cost. Currently, Gnana-Vahini is being run by Mitra-Jyothi independently using funds raised locally and internationally, with little assistance from ASHRAYA.

Main Organizations Supported

Mitra Jyothi Blind Welfare Association, Bangalore, Karnataka Sri Ranga Rao School for the BlindMysore, Karnataka
mitra-jyothi nr-foundations
BGS School for Blind Ramanagara, Karnataka

In 1996, we started a Center of Education in collaboration with Mitra-Jyothi. The COE focused on providing computer-based education and employment training to leverage the development of new technologies in the West geared towards bridging the gaps between the blind and the sighted. The COE is a step towards providing facilities to the blind that enable them to integrate themselves into mainstream education and job markets. We used the help of Dr. T.V. Raman, a visually challenged professional based in the US to set up two IBM Pentium III PCs, a scanner for scanning books, tactile keyboards and a Braille printer. We also installed specialized software such as an OCR, speech synthesizer, screen reader and a Braille translator. This set-up allows the blind to (a) scan text and get sound and/or Braille output on the computer; (b) scan graphic images and get embossed tactile images on the Braille Printer; and (c) become computer literate and be able to use basic computer software packages using the Screen Reader facility.

Main Organizations Supported

MitraJyothi Blind Welfare Association, Bangalore,Karnataka Sri Ranga Rao School for the Blind Mysore, Karnataka
mitra-jyothi nr-foundations
BGS School for Blind Ramanagara, Karnataka Samarthanam Trust for Disabled Bangalore, Karnataka
bgsec samarthabam

ASHRAYA was in hiatus in these two years owing to the main presiding officers being back in school for career enhancement. No disbursements were made during this period, and no funds were raised accordingly from donors in the US.

In 1998, we expanded our role to provide liaison services to large organizations for the blind in India. In 2002, we extended our services to mobility and learning impairments with the inclusion of Mobility India (Bangalore) to our list of beneficiaries. We started providing these services to Blind Person’s Association (BPA) in Ahmedabad and National Association for The Blind (NAB). We signed official MOUs with these organizations listing our roles and responsibilities. We helped NAB and BPA in contacting fund-raising organizations in the US to raise project-specific funds. We help them in setting up employment generation programs for blind adults. We purchase equipment on behalf of them in the US like Braille typewriters, low vision aids, etc. We sold handicraft items made by blind adults in these organizations through festivals and stores in the US to raise funds.

Main Organizations Supported

Blind Peoples Association, Ahmedabad, Gujarat National Association for the Blind,Bombay, Maharashtra
bgsec national-asspciation-for-blind
Mobility India,Bangalore, Karnataka National Association for the Blind,Chennai, Tamil Nadu
bgsec national-association-for-the-blind-gujarat
Vidnyanavahini Pune, Maharashtra

In 2004, we further expanded our scope in two ways:

  1. to include all physical challenges such as visual, aural, mobility and learning as well as rural poverty.
  2. education (mainly for children), vocational training (mainly for teenagers) and income generation (mainly for adults who have very limited scope for retro-education).

We also formed alliances with bigger organizations such as America-India Foundation (AIF). Through the relationship with AIF, we were able to significantly increase our leverage and consider larger projects for funding than we did before. The modus operandi was for ASHRAYA to submit proposals to AIF for joint funding on behalf of our beneficiary organizations, focused on income generation and vocational training for the physically challenged. If the projects were approved by AIF, we took it up for joint funding with AIF as the prime and ASHRAYA as the secondary funding agency. ASHRAYA typically contributed 30-40% of the total project cost and AIF the rest. Once the project was funded, ASHRAYA was responsible for working with the beneficiary organization to ensure project success and submit periodic progress reports to AIF.

Main Partners

American India Foundation
american india foundation

Main Organizations Supported

Blind Peoples Association,Ahmedabad, Gujarat National Association for the Blind, Bombay, Maharashtra
blind-peoples-association national-assoc-for-blind-gujarath-state-branch
Madhya Pradesh Blind Welfare Association Indore,Madhya Pradesh Mobility India, Bangalore, Karnataka
madhya-pradesh-blind mobility-india
Vidnyanavahini Pune, Maharashtra Swami RamanandTeerth Institute Gulbarga, Karnataka
vidnyanvhini srtist
Brethren Institute for Rehabilitation of Disabled Bestavarpet,Andhra Pradesh

In 2007, we discontinued our relationship with AIF since AIF’s focus was on projects on much bigger scope and impact than is our focus area. The organizational founders returned to India which allowed us to work very closely on projects; and visiting project sites on almost a monthly basis. We funded remotely located organizations (in very poor areas) such as Asha Deep School for the Blind, Nutana Vidyalaya and Brethren Institute for Rural Development. We also embarked on our biggest project ever, PROJECT TERRA FIRMA, where we took a prime role of project execution rather than traditional funding roles we had undertaken before. Project Terra Firma has been implemented and being run in 6 select Higher Primary Schools in Hanur Taluk, Karnataka. In this project, ASHRAYA runs activities that provide complementary education through fun and experiential learning. ASHRAYA is the prime executor of these activities and provide all the funding to support these activities.

The activities are centered on 3 components:

  1. Fun educational projects and competition day
  2. Setting up and running libraries
  3. Setting up and running science (and nature) clubs

We have already successfully piloted the above activities at Kannur School in Hanur Taluk since 2008; and established a replicable and repeatable model to be applied at other schools. In 2012, we worked with the BEO (Block Education Officer) of Hanur Taluk to extend this working model to 5 additional schools. The BEO also helped drive these activities to success through high level visibility, leadership and sponsorship

Main Organizations Supported

NutanaVidyalaya Gulbarga, Karnataka Mathru School for the Blind Bangalore, Karnataka
nutanavidyalaya mathru-eduactional-trust
Brethren Institute for Rehabilitation of Disabled Bestavarpet, Andhra Pradesh Asha Deepa School for the Blind Bidar, Karnataka
bretheren-institute ashadeepa
Government of Karnataka Higher Primary Schools HanurTaluk, Karnataka
govt. of karnataka