10/26/2010, 00.00
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Mumbai’s Institute for the Deaf Mutes celebrates 125 years

by Nirmala Carvalho
Founded in 1885, the Institute is the oldest facility for the differently abled in the whole of Asia. It is open to students of every caste and creed. It aims at providing the right tools to learn a trade. English, Hindi and Marathi are the languages of teaching.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Bombay Institute for the Deaf Mutes, Asia’s oldest institution for the differently abled, celebrated its 125th anniversary. For the occasion, the Archbishop of Mumbai, Mgr Oswald Gracias, celebrated a thanksgiving Eucharist last Saturday. Founded in 1885 by the Apostolic Vicar Leo Meurin SJ, its goal has always been to help the differently abled lead a life of self-worth, respect and independence.

“I am very proud that the Diocese of Bombay started this centre, which we know is the oldest in Asia,” the cardinal told AsiaNews. “I really pay tribute to the pioneers, my predecessors, who started the institute. I am sure at that time there were fewer cases, fewer possibilities and less professional help; yet, they had the courage to go ahead and start this institute as a service of the Catholic Church to society. The Bombay Institute for Deaf Mutes has been selflessly serving for the past 125 years all sections of society without discrimination based on caste or creed.”

Jennifer Alexander started working at the Institute in 1972. She has taught social sciences, English and religion. Between 1996 and 2007, she was the principal. Speaking to AsiaNews, she said that it was a great gift to teach these special children.

“I enjoyed teaching and communicating with hundreds of students during my 36 years at the institute,” she said. “These are intelligent children who should be given their rightful place in society in terms of employment opportunities.  With our vocational training, we equip them to face the challenges of life and become financially independent. Sadly, job opportunities are few.”

The institute was set up to help students develop their own potential and achieve their best scholastic level.

Today as in the past, it encourages students to take part in activities like awareness programmes and vocational training to facilitate their economic independence. Here, they can learn a trade like bookbinding, screen-printing, craft and needlework

The school also provides parents with counselling and awareness programmes. It also educates immediate families of differently abled children about their needs and aspirations.

Courses are offered in three languages: English, Hindi and Marathi. Currently, there are 145 students: 77 Hindus, 65 Muslims and 3 Christians.

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