Their disability not an hindrance to creativity

If you get an Indian handmade Christmas greeting card all the way from Europe, then have a closer look. These cards may have been made in Mangalore.

On the serene premises of Fr Muller Medical College Hospital is a small rehabilitation unit. Most of the employees of this unit are physically challenged. However, they craft beautiful handmade greeting cards and handicrafts, which are popular locally as well as abroad.
Speaking to Deccan Herald, Rehabilitation Unit in-charge Sr Juliana said that the centre specialises in making greeting cards and calendars using “Batik” art.

“These cards are quite famous and the unit receives huge orders, especially from European countries during the Christmas season. Hence, the card designing work starts as early as July, so that they reach the UK, Germany and France by October end and are ready for sale during the festive season,” she said.

The centre also makes silk scarves, shawls, table clothes, kitchen towels, bed sheets and dress materials and designs them with attractive block prints and Batik designs. Wooden toys such as marionettes, picture blocks, and memory blocks are also made here.
The unit also receives huge orders during conferences and conventions for files and folders made from cloth and jute.

With ban on usage of plastic bags in the district, the unit plans to increase its production of cloth, jute and paper bags.

Sr Juliana said that the items made in the unit are reasonably priced.
Greeting cards cost between Rs 15 to Rs 30 and bags cost within Rs 150. “The main aim of the centre is to provide employment to the disabled and hence make them independent,” she says.

Father Muller Charitable Institutions Director Rev Fr Patrick Rodrigues said that psychiatry patients from the day care ward are brought to the centre under the supervision of the doctors.

“The patients are made to involve in the work as a part of their occupational therapy and drastic improvements are seen in their health condition. Many patients enjoy the work here. It keeps them busy as well as gives them peace of mind,” he said.

“I have been working here for over 20 years and I still enjoy my work. Working here enhances my creativity and I can also support my family,” said Sunitha, who works at the Unit.

Though many do not know about this unit, it has been functioning for over four decades.
It was started in 1965 by a Swiss woman, Heidi Zehnder, as part of occupational therapy for leprosy patients. She had envisioned the centre to be a source of income for the patients, so that they can be self-sufficient.

The centre will celebrate its golden jubilee in 2015.

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