Disha Foundation was established in March 1995 by Mrs. P.N. Kavoori, who was a teacher at and then principal of a mainstream school for 40 years. During these four decades, she witnessed children with disabilities and the obstacles they faced. She says, “I had been principal of Sawai Mansigh Mahavidyalay , Rajasthan. I used to be very unhappy, very upset, that children who can already grasp on their own, I’m taking them ahead and I’m leaving behind those who really need me.” Further, even when they were admitted, schools were not properly equipped to meet the child’s needs. Moreover, she always felt that she shared an ‘emotional bond’with the disabled but had no expert knowledge, simply a drive, to help them.
So, when Mrs. Kavoori moved to Jaipur , she decided to leave mainstream education and focus on helping the disabled instead. Her aim was to cater to children with multiple disabilities who had not been accepted into government schools. For her endeavour, she partnered with Mr. and Mrs. Khaitan and Dr. Aggarwali, others who were also concerned with the lack of opportunities for the disabled. She recalls, “At that time, I was ringing up some very rich people, telling them that I need money. One of those people was Mrs. Mala Khaitan, who called me back the next day and said, ‘Mr husband says that this offer has dropped in our laps from the heavens. We will be standing behind you all the time !’ ”
Mr. Basant Khaitan and his wife Mala committed themselves to financially support the centre. It started in a two bedroom house with 17 students and student volunteers. Within a year, there were 100 students! But despite the ever rising numbers of enrolments, Disha continued to work out of this small complex for five years.
Eventually a piece of land was located for a larger school to be built. Unfortunately, the residents in the area protested as they were unhappy about a a centre for the disabled being set up in their colony. Another plot was thus found. It’s where Disha stands today. It’s got a campus feel and I noticed that it no direct neighbours.
Mrs. Devi the first chairperson of the governing council of Disha contacted her good friend Ms. Elsa Pareitte from Rome, to ask if she could help out with donations in any way. Ms. Pareitte was so impressed by the Disha project that she donated the entire amount of money required for constructing a disabled friendly building. The organisation’s work continues from here, till date.