Interaction with learners

This first supermarket of its kind in Mumbai is run by children with special needs

According to 2019 figures, there are about 7.8 children living in India with some kind of disability.

Although these are the official figures, NGOs and activists working in this area say the real number is much higher.

According to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), children with disabilities “include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments which, in interaction with various barriers, may impede their full and effective participation in life. society on an equal basis”.

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Suffer in silence

Due to stigma and lack of awareness in society, they don’t even have the chance to access education and a dignified life.

2019 “State of the Education Report for India: Children with Disabilities” stated that 75% of children with disabilities at the age of five and a quarter between the ages of 5 and 19 do not attend any educational institution.

The Mumbai-based Urja Special School is one of many organizations working in this area and trying to train children with disabilities to integrate into society.

Urja Supermarket Bombay
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Earlier this month Dr. Mihir Parekh and Pooja Parekh, the couple who run Urja Special School, opened the first supermarket of its kind in Mumbai, run entirely by children with special needs.

Trained in the management of a supermarket

“It’s been more than three weeks since the Urja supermarket was opened to the public. The children are still being trained in the management of the store and things are improving. It’s not in terms of sales, because at the moment this is not our motivation.” said Dr Mihir Parekh India time.

Disabled children
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Dr Parekh, a child psychologist and special educator with more than a decade of experience running Urja Special School, had wanted to open the supermarket for years, but the pandemic forced him to be delayed until ‘now.

“Urja Supermarket is an extension of our school activities. We also organize a vocational training program for our children. It started by thinking about what awaits them once the children have finished their studies. we give them training in store management, cooking, baking, office management and IT,” Dr Parekh explained.

Disabled children
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The children of the Ujra school include those who have autism, Down syndrome, intellectual disability, slow learning and learning difficulties. About fifteen of them have now been trained to manage the daily activities of the supermarket. They are also assisted by a therapist or the store manager.

The supermarket mainly deals in FMCG items, some organic products and some gift items.

Let them learn new skills

“We want to train them based on their skill levels. At the store, when a customer walks in, they have to be on their trailers and dealing with complete strangers. This will help them identify their own skills, become independent and make them feel that they too can contribute to society,” he said.

Disabled children
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According to Dr. Parekh, the store has given parents and children new hope and direction in life.

“They are full of enthusiasm and are learning something other than what they have learned so far from the books. They are very motivated to come to the store every day to learn something new. More importantly, they meet and interact with new people. Until now, they only met their teachers and friends at school, but now they have the opportunity to meet complete strangers, greet them with a smile and help them with their shopping,” explained Dr Parekh.

Disabled children
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Parents need to accept reality

Many children with special needs do not receive medical care or support due to lack of awareness and parents’ reluctance to accept that their child is different.

According to Dr. Parekh, it is very important that the parents accept the condition of the child who runs from one doctor to another in the hope of hearing what they want to hear.

Disabled children
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“It’s also important to show good adherence to therapy. In case further assessments are needed, this should be done, and if the therapist says the child needs a special set-up and not regular schooling which should be accepted and practiced,” he said. mentioned.

He also said parents should find out about the condition of the child and what future they can plan for the child when they are gone.

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