PREETI MONGA

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Preeti, who is herself blind, is developing an aerobic program for visually impaired children in order to help them develop self-confidence beginning with physical mobility.

This profile below was prepared when Preeti Monga was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship .
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Preeti Monga’s work focuses upon making the visually impaired confident, productive and dignified citizens to ensure they are physically, emotionally and psychologically able to live a meaningful and satisfying life along with their sighted counterparts, without any inhibitions

Due to the missing crucial sense of eyesight, learning via observation is completely missing in most blind people This leads them to develop a personality with poor social skills, where they end up acquiring uncomfortable peculiar physical and at times behavioural habits and mannerisms, which makes it very difficult for the sighted society to accept and include them into their midst. In addition, their lack of sight prevents them from being able to fully comprehend that their above mentioned shortcomings are one of the main reasons of their social exclusion into the mainstream society. On the other hand, the sighted society hardly has the opportunity to see or interact with enough confident visually impaired people, which reinforces their existing inhibitions and negative beliefs towards them.

Preeti makes focused efforts on both sides of the spectrum; i.e. with the visually impaired as well as with the sighted community. On one hand, she trains and professionally coaches the visually impaired on acquiring all the above mentioned skills right from their early childhood or from immediately following the onset of blindness. On the other hand, she creates opportunities where the visually impaired and the sighted can come together, interact and mingle.

Over the last three decades, Preeti has directly/indirectly addressed over 150,000 children/people with and without disabilities, and make them aware about abilities of people with disabilities, especially regarding the abilities of the visually impaired people. Most of the disabled people she works with are unaware about abilities and talents that they can develop. She addresses these people covering areas like personality development, physical fitness, social and communication skills, sexual rights and personal and emotional development; with the underlying message remaining, awareness about abilities of people with disabilities. She has helped nearly one thousand disabled people to get over their initial trauma of becoming disabled and helped them to move on in life. She has also created awareness regarding the possibility of successful and productive employability of people with disabilities, in over five hundred corporates and private sector companies and conducted awareness-focused workshops and talks for nearly twenty thousand  non-disabled  people from schools, colleges, corporate and open society. She launched ‘Fusion’, a platform where people with and without disabilities are brought together to socially network face to face.  Project ‘Dignity’, is another initiative which is specifically targeted towards coaching and training visually impaired girls/women. It aims at providing them with all the required skills and exposure which helps them to become confident and productive citizens. She also has set up a preparatory school and resource centre called ‘Shiksha’, where quality education is provided to visually impaired children. This center prepares children with blindness and low-vision with basic skills, so that they can integrate into a regular school and be included into the mainstream society. In addition she currently helps to provide employment to disabled candidates in the corporate sector and help the companies to have their disabled employees become a productive part of their workforce.

Preeti is in the process of establishing a Play School and Coaching English Communication   center for non-disabled children. The generated income will help  support Shiksha for visually impaired children. She plans to set up a commercial catering and laundry service which will not only bring in the money for her social initiatives, but will also become a training and employment center for visually impaired girls. She is working towards making her entire setup into a profit center, so that her organization can sustain and grow.She also has the objective to share her best practises with the sector and establish her programmes nationwide, to ensure widespread inclusion across the board.

NOTE: This section was updated in May, 2017. Read on for the ELECTION profile

INTRODUCTION

Preeti, who is herself blind, is developing an aerobic program for visually impaired children in order to help them develop self-confidence beginning with physical mobility.




THE NEW IDEA

Preeti has focused on one of the central problems faced by the visually impaired -- fear of movement — which leaves them psychologically scarred. Her personal struggle with the disability made her realize the need for developing "body confidence" among the blind, who usually tend to remain stationary and drag their feet or shuffle when they walk. W ith the help of aerobics, Preet: has been able to beat such stereotypical body behavior and would like to offer her formula to others battling with her problem. She feels aerobics would help blind children overcome the hesitation about m oving their lim bs, thereby improving their health and giving them the confidence to counter their handicap. This would be an important preparatory activity for integrating them into the mainstream. Preeti has had successful results when she experimented with her idea at the Preparatory School of the National Association for the Blind (NAB) on an ad-hoc basis. Though the children barely had the stamina to run through the workout on the first day that she held classes, they asked for more. By the end of the year-long program the teachers felt that there was a noticeable improvement in body flexibility, stamina, self confidence, and ultimately, general performance in all other subjects.




THE PROBLEM

There are only a few blind schools in the country, which do not even begin to cater to the needs of the visually impaired, and many of these are in an appalling condition. Besides the lack of facilities, they quite commonly fail to prepare their students, either in terms of skills or emotionally, to live effectively integrated lives. There is a real need for techniques like Preeti's that could catch the attention of the blind community and give it an economic, easily replicable tool for such physical/ emotional training.




THE STRATEGY

Preeti's approach involves both group exercises in each school and extensive sessions with individual children designed to help them become self confident, disciplined masters of their own bodies and space. She is demonstrating this approach now at the National Association for the Blind's preparatory school. She will continue to use this school as a testing ground for her ideas, but she will also begin carrying her work to several of the other leading institutions for the blind as soon as resources permit. She has also launched a series of talks at a large number of schools and institutions that she hopes will open the way to a far wider impact. Her own remarkable personal success and obvious sense of fulfillment in making this contribution make her a compelling witness.




THE PERSON

Preeti, 30, has been visually impaired since she was 21 months old as a result of a drastic allergy caused by a smallpox vaccine. She attended three years of school (from the ages 11-14), but the integration process did not work out. Opposed to the concept of going to a school for the blind, Preeti decided to hone a musical skill and devoted long hours to playing the sitar. Ultimately she decided that she did not have the inner talent to be a great musician and sought a new outlet to contribute to society.