by Asmi Kothari
The project ‘Wake up India’, started by Sonali Kelapure as her project in Landmark’s Self-Expression and Leadership Program, is about creating awareness regarding the career and education options available for disabled kids. Sonali always wanted to contribute something in the education sector for the disabled children, and Landmark’s program gave her the opportunity to bring this idea into existence.
Her cousin’s daughter has hearing impairment since birth. Later on, she also developed a learning disability. Her cousin was struggling to find a right school for her education, and finally settled upon a school for mentally disabled kids. This happened because Sonali’s cousin had no idea about the kind of education opportunities that are available for his daughter. This inspired Sonali to create the project.
When Sonali began she was completely ignorant about what to do and whom to approach. She also was apprehensive to talk to people and face failure. And now ‘Wake up India’ has reached out to 600 parents from 2,000 schools across Mumbai. They are now creating a manual for the teachers to help them recognize various disabilities and help the parents to get their children right kind of therapy and education. They further believe that they could make this a nationwide project.
Sonali also gave a lot of credit to The Landmark Forum and said, “The biggest contribution are the distinctions that were given during the entire curriculum, and the motivation was to keep the project in existence.”
Sonali is thankful to many, many people who have helped her during the process – Sarwa Shiksha Abhiyaan, panelists Sulabha Karunanidhi (Special Educator), Chaya Shah (Occupational Therapist), Sasha Kothari (Gynecologist), Kanika Kohli (Special Educator), Chitra Laxman (Social Worker), Priya Penkar (Career Counsellor), Narendra Shirke (Career Counsellor) and Raman Shankar (Former Director of Nab) all contributed immensely to the project. Other contributors include her friends Arunisha Sengupta, Gopal Rawal, Sanjay and Priyanka Gajria, Tushar Chavan, Sachin Kulaye, Gina Ghosh, Disha Gupta, her mum Sujata Parab, her husband Rahul Kelapure and Self-Expression and Leadership Program coach Shantinarayan Rathi, Program leader Tarun Advani, and her course buddy Bhushan Poshe – all these people helped her throughout.