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          The quest to get his nephew educated is what set Parvez on the path of 'Ummeed'. He visited every school in Mumbai to get a seat for his nephew. However, none of them was willing to take the child. ‘For eight years we tried to send Salman to a school, without success. There's no special school in Mumbra. One government school in Thane and the rest are private schools with waiting period of three years’, says Parvez.            He finally decided to teach Salman himself in 2010 – when the boy was 14. But why not help others like Salman.  Thus Parvez laid the foundation for a free special school by renting a small room in Mumbra.          The most challenging part was people usually refused to believe their children were not 'normal'. “The denial was more in girls; parents wouldn't accept that they had a disability – especially in the case of mental disabilities. These kids weren't allowed to come out of their houses either, to hide this fact. I have even seen parents hiding this during the census. I believe disabled population might be more than the official number,” says Parvez. Even parents and philanthropists do not wish to spend on children with disability because they feel that such children cannot revert back to society in any way or form.           Every child is special. Our society and public spaces are developed according to the 97% and ignore the 3%, who are a crucial part of our society. We don't care about them because they don't walk on roads, they can't roam around in malls, or they can't be a part of normal schools. However, a slightly different approach can help them contribute great things to society.           Salman, because of whom Parvez started his journey, is a well-learnt child now. He has cleared three exams in class 10 and is appearing for the remaining three this year.  Like Salman, there are 180 other children with disability that Ummeed supports through free education, physiotherapy, nutrition, medical aid, vocational training etc. right until job placement.           Over the span of eight years, there has been tremendous improvement in the well-being of these special children.

Making a difference in the life of the differently abled!
By Parvez Farid
Nominated NGO: Ummeed Foundation