‘EYECONIC’-the Celebration of 142nd Birthday of Helen Keller at SAC

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‘EYECONIC’-the Celebration of 142nd Birthday of Helen Keller at St Aloysius College, Mangaluru

  • “I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days. Darkness would make him appreciate sight”- An extract from ‘Three Days to See’ by Helen Keller

Mangaluru: Helen Keller is known the world over as a symbol of undaunted courage in the face of overwhelming odds – an American activist and disability rights advocate. Being afflicted with an illness, she was left deaf and blind but became a beacon of light for millions. On the occasion of Helen Keller’s 142nd Birthday, the Sahodaya Association of St Aloysius College (Autonomous), Mangalore, organised a unique programme called ‘EYECONIC’ on 23rd June 2022, in the Joseph Wiley Hall, Maffei Block at St Aloysius College, to commemorate her life and to discuss the success stories of individuals with visual impairment, thus to create awareness in the society.

On this occasion, two of the visually challenged achievers from Mangalore – Ms Meghana M and Mrs Swarna Muthuraj were invited as special guests. Ms Meghana who hails from Manjeshwar moved to Mangaluru in 2017. She studied her High School at the Roman And Catherine Lobo School For Blind in Mangalore and Pre-University and Degree studies at St Agnes College (Autonomous), Mangalore. Meghana has also completed her PG in History through the IGNOU Centre in St Aloysius College (Autonomous). Currently, she works as Customer Support at Saarathee CRM Pvt. Ltd.

Mrs Swarna Muthuraj is from Kadaba taluk, Mangalore, and did her schooling at the Delhi National Association for Blind. She moved to Bangalore where she attained computer knowledge and skills. Married to Mr Muthuraj, she currently runs an NGO named Sarvamangala Charitable Trust near Morgan’s Gate, Mangalore which works for the rehabilitation of the visually impaired.

Both the guests introduced themselves as they shared their inspirational success stories of overcoming the challenges of being visually challenged. Ms Meghana shared how she was shattered when she started losing her eyesight when she was just 12 years old and narrated how she overcame the fear and desperation of being visually incapacitated, despite all the challenges.

Mrs Swarna Muthuraj shared with the students her experience of being born blind and unable to reckon with the outside world. However, that did not stop her from moving forward. Swarna is exemplary since she didn’t stop after receiving help but decided to create a ripple effect by helping other visually challenged people. To realise this mammoth dream she started an NGO with the help of her husband who is also a disability accessibility expert.

She also shared that her greatest fear is being mocked by other people about her disability and that it is not easy to live a normal life in a city like Mangalore with its lack of infrastructure and positive mindset to accept visually impaired people. She felt that people need to understand the world of the blind, appreciate them and treat them as their equals. She also encouraged the students to take an active role in creating awareness in society about the real needs of the visually challenged.

Dr Alwyn DSa, the Registrar of the College, addressed the gathering and congratulated both the guests on their achievements by overcoming challenges in their lives and becoming shining examples in the lives of many. He also highlighted the aim of the Sahodaya Association which was founded by Dr Charles V. Furtado from the Dept of English, who took great pain to understand the challenges of the blind people. The Registrar then felicitated both the guests on behalf of Sahodaya, St Aloysius College (Autonomous).

An interactive session was coordinated by Dr Charles Furtado, Associate Professor, Dept. of English, in which he narrated the life story of Helen Keller and illustrated how despite her disabilities she became the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and author many books. He enthusiastically shared his experience back when he was a part of Sahodaya and also explained that ‘Sahodaya’ means Blooming or Growing Together’. He informed the students that it is necessary to be empathetic rather than sympathetic towards specially-abled people, to be sensitive to their needs but at the same time be willing to accept them as one among us.

Dr Furtado later asked all the participants to blindfold themselves for about 20 minutes to have a first-hand experience about how it feels to lose one of their senses and called upon volunteers with blindfolds to perform certain tasks. The volunteers then shared their experiences on how difficult they found doing even simple tasks while blindfolded. Towards the end of the session, Ms Meghana and Mrs Swarna interacted with the students by answering some questions.

The programme was compered by Abhiram, with Chris Monteiro and his team singing the prayer song, Roshni Coelho welcoming the session and introducing the guests and Shoan D’Souza proposing the vote of thanks. Dr Roshan D’Souza and Ms Shaila Rodrigues, the Presidents of Sahodaya were also present.

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