Chennai: Till a few months ago, 30-year-old Shaheera Begum who is orthopedically challenged used to pack chicken at her father’s shop in Andhra Pradesh. However, a three-month training by Naturals, a popular salon group, turned her life around. Ms Begum is now a reflexologist who offers massage therapy at one of their salons in Chennai. For her work, she makes around Rs 10,000 a month.
She said, “I plan to keep learning, save and start my own centre.”
Another woman Tara Bai, 20, who is hearing and speech impaired, has trained herself in manicure and pedicure. Visually-challenged P Yesurajan and burn victim Muthu Mary too are a part of the salon and say that it has brought about economic empowerment and a livelihood with dignity.
“I am so happy. I like this than all the other jobs I did earlier. I want all those like me to get this kind of an opportunity,” said Mr Rajan.
All the customers are given a choice beforehand and most of them opt for people with disabilities for the job.
Anuke Allwyn, a French national who was massaged by Shaheera said, “Shaheera is focussed. She gave high quality service. I saw no difference. I would say she is better.”
Tara displayed her fine pedicure skills as Rama Rajesh, a physiotherapist, stretched comfortably on her seat. “I was worried when they introduced me to service by people with disabilities. I must say, they are doing an awesome job. They have fire in their eyes to fulfil their dreams.”
Rochelle Stephen, a media student, who too had opted for services by a person with disabilities said, “They are talented. But sadly they don’t get the opportunity. Wish other organisations too open doors for persons with disabilities.”
Youth For Jobs, an NGO, provided the salon with 10 trained people with disabilities. Encouraged by public response, the company wants to make all its 600 branches inclusive.
K Veena, the founder explained, “We want to employ at least 3 persons with disabilities in every branch. We would train and employ a thousand people persons with disabilities soon”.
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