Muskaan is a story of collective will, determination and unwavering optimism. It was started in 1982 by parents and professionals filling up a void in required services and facilities for children and adults with intellectual disability (ID) and their families. Relentless hard work, honest intentions and clarity of focus steered the growth of Muskaan. The team had only one mission and that is creating growth opportunities and required services to enrich the lives of persons with ID. We knew that in order to live a fuller and dignified life, intellectually challenged children and adults needed education, vocational skills, employment and other growth opportunities. However, how to do it had been an immense challenge. Every step that we took in this direction taught us about its pragmatics. Small achievements on the way kept strengthening our optimism and courage.
Today’s Muskaan is well known for its pioneering work in the field of providing vocational training and work opportunities to adults with ID. It has emerged as an effective rehabilitation model both nationally and internationally. Parents and professionals from national and international organizations including Europe, USA, Canada, Australia, Mauritius, China, Japan and Afghanistan have visited Muskaan over past few years and appreciated its unique training & employment model for adults with ID. Our experience of working with boys and girls has been very encouraging and has proved that given opportunities, they can learn many skills and become much more self-reliant and productive. They have immense potential for learning and growth provided they get appropriate education, learning environment and nurturance of their social-emotional needs like everyone else. It is largely due to lack of proper training and not their disability, which forces them to live an impoverished life. People with disability are real heroes because they constantly negotiate with situations which have been designed keeping in mind the majority needs and not the needs of persons with disability.
What we do
Every project that Muskaan has taken up since 1982 was a response to the needs of people with ID and their families. We discovered that people with disability in general and ID in particular live an extremely impoverished and neglected life because society sees only their disability and not their personhood. This has resulted in lack of growth opportunities e.g. education, vocational training, employment and becoming a contributing members of the society. Muskaan took up all its projects to address these needs which are interconnected and facilitate living a life of respect and dignity:
- Training programs addressing holistic development including vocational training
- Employment services
- Assistive living program for senior adults with ID to provide safe and dignified living after the demise of parents
- Family support services
- Awareness & advocacy for the human rights of people with ID
Each of these projects evolved with constant experimentation and review with a focus on empowerment of persons with ID through capacity building and trust on their learning potential despite limitations in intellectual functioning.
- Journey of Muskaan started from Genetic clinic, AIIMS Delhi
- Registration of society as “Welfare association for Down Syndrome”.
- Counseling & guidance of the parents at AIIMS Genetics OPD clinic every Monday to empower parents with hope, understanding and nurturing the growth of their children with ID
- Lectures, workshops & multi-services camps for parents and their children & adults with Intellectual disability
- Efforts to enrol parents to become members of the society was driven aggressively as we were aiming to make it an advocacy group as well.
- Early intervention program was started to help parents understand the growth needs of their children.
- Sports activities were initiated for children to have fun.
- First newsletter in the name of Down Syndrome News Letter was brought out in March
- Established vocational training centre named “Muskaan” in a garage at 26, Mehtab Dharamshala, Kalkaji Mandir Complex, New Delhi
- Kapil, Sanjeev Jain & Devinder were the first three students to join Muskaan
- Candles, grounded spices, few stationary products were the initial products of vocational training center
- Sham-e-Ghazal was organised in January 1990 to raise funds to start vocational training center for adults with ID. Famous Gazal Singers Rajender & Neena Mehta presented a musical evening. Rotary club of Delhi Rajdhani was a partner in organizing the event and raising funds
- Name of the society was changed to “Parents Association for the Welfare of Children with Mental Handicap”.
- Another fund raising show was organised with the help of Inner Wheel Club, Delhi north, in March. It was a play titled Dulari Bai presented by Little Theatre Group Repertory
- Moved from Kalkaji garage to a barsati in safdarjung enclave
- Expanded vocational activities to include grounded spices and dal powders
- Got our first bulk order for candles from Meterological Department of India
- Muskaan Vocational Training Centre shifted to a spacious basement in A-28, Hauz khas. Mrs. Savitri Dasgupta, mother of our student Sutapa, gave it to Muskaan without charging rent
- Within 3 years many more vocational activities were added e.g. variety of gift stationary items, block printing & diya decoration.
- Started greeting cards project to raise funds and create awareness about people with intellectual disability
- Muskaan organised Diwali Bazaar for the first time
- Delhi Development Authority allotted an acre of land to Muskaan in VasantKunj for running a training centre for youth with intellectual disability
- Number of students and staff increased, more vocational activities added, funding sources increased through donations from muskaan friends in USA and grant from ministry (MSJE, Govt. of India).
- Our first ever initiative for Employment was taken in 1995 with creation of a Supported Employment centre within Muskaan giving them a monthly stipend.
- Organised 3rd fund raising event through medical camp on 29th September
- Muskaan started monthly jam session of dance and fun where Parikrama band joined and played the music. Mrs Indeera Chand coordinated the monthly event
- Organised another fund raising event “Muskaan Moments of Inspiration” with the help of Parikrama and Friends of Music near Qutub Minar lawns
- Bhumi Pujan for Muskaan Building was done in February
- Celebrated ten years of Vocational Training Center on 24th December in AIIMS auditorium
- Construction started for Muskaan Building at Vasant Kunj
- first mainstream employment of four students of Muskaan at Balloon export house
- Massive Fund raising efforts for construction of Muskaan Building
- A fund raising event “Ghasiram Kotwal” was presented by National School of Drama
- Started operating from new building at Vasant Kunj. This enabled Muskaan to expand its training programs, namely regular yoga & sports, computer training, life skills training, cognitive enrichment program, training centre for severely challenged adults, Counselling and guidance clinic ( Buti Health & Research Centre) and increase in no. of students and teachers, Art & Therapy Centre especially for high support needs persons, sale & marketing systems.
- Major efforts at streamlining all the training programs in terms of formal curriculum development, assessment, teaching strategies and improved work structures in supported employment centre of Muskaan.
- Added training programs for persons with high support needs
- Formal inauguration of Muskaan new building at vasant kunj by ambassador of Japan Mr Yasukuni Enoki on March
- A new vocational unit of bakery was established, started making various bakery products
- Lemon pickle and lemon squash unit was established with full support of Mrs Neelam Johar Malhotra ( prof. of Economics at LSR College) and her family. This turned out to be a unique and favorite product made by Muskaan students.
- Muskaan completed 25 yrs and silver jubilee was celebrated in February 2006
- Muskaan got major recognition through national awards by MSJE, Govt. of India and Godfrey phillips.
- Two of Muskaan students were placed in Indira Gandhi National Open University
- Muskaan came in the forefront of advocacy for the Rights of people with disability. It developed strong network with other similar organizations, Govt. bodies, NIMH, National Trust.
- Regular awareness program were conducted for school and college students by organizing their visits to Muskaan and making presentations in their schools and colleges.
- Muskaan started ART Center which included extra-curricular activities such as pottery, painting, jewelry making , using flowers for making holi colours, Plantation , Dance , Music etc
- Awarded for Outstanding Annual Report by CSO Partners
- Signed an MOU with National Trust to start a residential facility for adults with intellectual and other developmental disability in MPCC, Dera village, Delhi
- Muskaan was awarded with two national awards by National Trust, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India; BEST PARENTS ASSOCIATION & BEST LOCAL LEVEL COMMITTEE.
- Movement towards greater professionalization in the working of Muskaan including adult training and employment with formal curriculum, assessment and periodical review to find out strengths and limitations of the system. Management systems e.g. personnel policies, financial management, rules & regulations for students teachers and families, strategic planning with clear objectives and plan of action etc. Hallmark of Muskaan’s functioning is reflected in its core values
- NCPEDP-SHELL HELLEN KELLER AWARD for Creating Employment Opportunities for Persons with disabilities
- Started a residential facility at Dera village in partnership with National Trust (a statutory body constituted by Govt. of India for taking care of the needs of people with Autism, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability & multiple disabilities).
- Muskaan became State Nodal Agency of National Trust for Delhi state
- Started mainstream employment in partnership with Lemon tree Hotel; first batch of 5 Muskaan students got employment at Redfox hotel of Lemontree as guest service associates
- Started data entry unit with 20 students
- The entire training program was divided into two main programs- program for High support needs thro’ craft & activity centre and Vocational training program
- Another Vocational Training Center was started at Sahibabad in East Delhi.
- Partnered with Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India in curriculum development for people with Intellectual Disabilities