NAINITAL: Life came to a standstill for Arti Agarwal when at the age
of 20 she lost 70% vision in both eyes. Diagnosed with a rare eye
disease, Agarwal, a resident of Haldwani, could not continue studies
after class 12. However, she got a "second chance" when eight years
later, in 2010, she joined the Residential Resource and Vocational
Training Centre in Haldwani run by the National Association for Blind.
Today, the 35-year-old is a probationary officer in a public sector
bank in Haldwani and the proud holder of a B.Ed degree.
 "I was reborn the day I came to this centre. It was like I received
another opportunity to realize my dreams. I still visit the institute
when I have time," said Agarwal.

 Agarwal is one of the hundreds of blind and partly blind students
whose lives were transformed after arriving at the centre. The centre,
which was established in 2003, at present houses 80 blind and
partially blind students across age groups who receive training in
various subjects and courses.

 The centre in Gaulapar area is equipped with modern amenities like
computers, a library with more than 500 Braille books, a teaching
staff of 10 along with visiting trainers, solar panels and separate
dormitories for boys and girls.

 The students here may not be able to see the world but hopes and
dreams are still alive in their eyes. Some aspire to become IAS
officers, some want to be teachers, while some see themselves as bank
executives or successful professionals. The residents said they are
motivated to dream big every day by the likes of Agarwal.


 Prem Prakash Pant, a 45-year-old ex-armyman, who lost his vision due
to optic nerve damage had lost all hope of living a normal life until
he arrived at the centre in 2003. Now, working as a clerk in the
social welfare department in Haldwani he said that the centre provided
him a new lease of life. "It was with the help of teachers here that I
learnt how to read Braille and other life skills," Pant said.

 Inspiring personal stories of grit and determination are abundant at
the centre. Hari Singh Sahi, a student of class 11, who has been
attending the training centre for the past 6 years and wants to become
a college lecturer. Another student Goving Singh Suniyal from Berinaag
in Pithorgarh district wants to become a lawyer to fight corruption in
the society.


 Fifty-four-year-old Shyam Dhanak is tasked with managing the
day-to-day responsibility of the centre. Dhanak's son Ajay was
diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a rare genetic disorder, at the
age of 14 which rendered him blind. Dhanak's son is now a senior
manager in a leading pharma company in Vishakhapatnam.


 People from all walks of life volunteer at the centre. Dimple Pandey,
a social worker who is a regular visitor at the centre, said, "I once
took the children out for a pizza outing because I thought they never
get a chance to go out for a picnic or something similar. They enjoyed
the visit a lot."
Avinash Shahi
Doctoral student at Centre for Law and Governance JNU

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