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Vocational Therapy

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SWAYAM, a vocational training initiative

With the passing of time and after having found our ground with the rehabilitation centre, it was observed that a few of our clients had reached a stage where they were ready to re-enter mainstream society and earn a living. But to do so, they still needed to acquire the skills needed for specific job profiles. This felt need gave birth to the concept of Swayam.

Swayam, our vocational training programme commenced on the 7th July 2006 and endeavours to provide vocational skills to our clients, in addition to basic business, marketing, sales, and production skills, knowledge and know-how. This project attempts to impart these different skills which can be incorporated and sustained as a source of livelihood for the clients in the future. The clients not only earn directly from the sales of the products made by them, but also learn how to budget production costs for future production and profits, market, and sell the products that they produce. This initiative gives the clients a sense of stability that an actual job would offer as well as an opportunity to re-learn responsibility and accountability.

Swayam essentially offers individuals recovering from Mental Illnesses the opportunity to prepare for the world they wish to once again be apart of. With this preparation comes the experiences related to “finding a job” and sustaining it. Whilst it provides the exposure to these various situations, the programme strengthens and enables these individuals to face society and be responsible for their own independent lives.

Opportunities such as Swayam are few and rare, even for organisations such as our own that prides itself on the variety of services it offers individuals recovering from Mental Illnesses, and aspiring to resume their lives within the mainstream. Opportunities such as these are few and far between as they require vision, forethought, dedication and skill. It is not only the vision and commitment of people working within the organisation that is needed, it is also the vision and support of well-wishers that makes such programmes possible.

We feel heartfelt gratitude to have this much needed support from the Shamdasani Foundation and it’s trustees. Their unwavering support over the last four years towards Swayam has not only made it’s current existence possible, but it has also enabled us to move from step to step and consider the reintegration of Mentally Ill people into mainstream society in it’s entirety. It is because of their partnership and support that Swayam was able to progress through the various stages it needed to in order to reach out to our clients and their varying vocational needs.

Swayam has been through a gamut of phases since its inception.

The beginning of Swayam marked a phase of Production where the clients were introduced to the concept of creating a product. Here the clients were not only taught various skills that went into the creation of a product, it also included skills necessary to create a “finished product”. Hence, if the clients had to create an envelope or a paper bag, the Swayam session not only focused on “how-to-make” but also emphasised on “how to make it a competitive product”. During this phase, the clients mainly created products such as paper bags, envelopes, diyas, candles, and greeting cards.

As the clients developed the needed finesse, they were able to create products that were competitive and products that could generate revenue. Hence, Swayam stepped into its second phase of Marketing. This phase began through direct sales where a stall was set up on the premise of MANAV Foundation itself and the sales happened through this stall.

Over the years, this small venture then expanded to exhibitions, corporate house orders, and beyond. During this phase, the clients were taken through the process of setting up stalls in exhibitions, preparing the stall, positioning and marketing the products at the stall as well as accounting and reporting post - exhibition.

As the clients’ skill increased, as the clients were able to manage stalls better, as the clients became better skilled to create a marketable product, the range of products that the clients could create also increased. The clients were able to venture into creating products that needed complex skills and intricate work. The clients widened their product range to ornaments, cloth pouches, cloth bags, mobile pouches, cushion covers, saree covers, hand bags, prayer mats, table mates, and quilts.

As their sales increased, it was heartening to see a great boost in the confidence levels of the clients. Alongside the clients also developed “soft skills” that further enabled them to meet their self-determined goals.

Keeping in mind Swayam’s vision of total vocational rehabilitation, the next phase of Swayam then focused on “Soft Skill training”. It was seen that although the clients efficiently created products and assisted in the marketing of the products, they lacked a few “skills” vital to the process. Hence, whether these skills meant communicating effectively at exhibitions or maintaining a certain standard while creating a product or even exhibit a certain amount of confidence, the client’s lacked training in the area. Swayam hence moved into its next phase of “Soft Skill Training”.

During this phase the clients continued to be a part of exhibitions such as the Kala Ghoda Festival, the Anand Mela and other exhibitions that came our way. Alongside this, the Swayam sessions focus moved away from production and toward assisting clients with skills that would enhance their overall vocational rehabilitation. This included each client identifying hurdles that they felt came in the way of their progress, discussing these hurdles with the group and suggesting ways in which each one can handle these hurdles. Some of the hurdles identified by the clients have been

low confidence,
lacking appropriate communication skills,
inability to get tasks done,
a perceived lack of commitment

The clients along with the Swayam facilitator have worked intensely toward assisting the clients in being able to identify the hurdle itself, then toward finding a collective manner in which the client can assist himself/herself to overcome it. The clients were provided with intensive training in confidence building, improving communication skills, and sustaining commitment through the process of self motivation. This was done not just through the sessions and discussions but also through assignments given to the clients, setting individualized goals for each client. The clients seemed to amply benefit through this phase, not just in terms of their vocational rehabilitation but also in terms of their personal growth. The clients seemed to take away these skills and apply them in their personal lives as well.

While this phase in Swayam contributed substantially in the clients learning, it was noticed that some more soft skills were missing and production and marketing had taken a back seat. Keeping in mind the importance of constantly exposing the clients to production, marketing as well as soft skill training, Swayam’s next phase of “In-Vivo exposure” was introduced.

This is the current format in which the Swayam sessions function.

The Swayam sessions have been converted into office time and the clients have been divided into departments. These departments have been decided by the clients themselves and each client has chosen his/her own department. The roles and responsibilities of each department have been discussed and clearly stated. The rules and regulations of the office have been decided and put up in the session space. The clients themselves will hence decide the product to be made, how to sell it, what strategies to use to market them. In this process, the clients seem to be learning not just the obvious skills of creating a product and selling it but also accounting, market research, working like an organisation, accountability, interpersonal interaction, group work, and team work.