My Story: Surendra Shroff

Hello readers. I’m Agnes in conversation with Mr. Surendra Shroff Managing Director & Co-Founder, Disability Entrepreneurship And Leadership (DEAL) Foundation.

Thanks Surendra for this opportunity for this quick Q&A during most testing and challenging times of the Pandemic.

You are welcome Agnes. I’m glad to be here. As you say we live in unprecedented and challenging times.

What has been the impact of the second wave of the Coronavirus on the work of DEAL Foundation?

The main impact of the Pandemic has been one of uncertainty, loss of capacity and a slowdown across our sustainable livelihood activities.

The pandemic continues to adversely impact fundraising efforts of the organisation which in turn has impacted on what and how much we are able to take-on. More than the first, second wave of the Coronavirus is making the task of building individual and community resilience tougher than ever before.

The impact of this on people from vulnerable, marginal and excluded communities will be very serious and will require society as a whole to come together to address this.

How have you had to adapt and change what you do over the period of the Pandemic?

The pandemic has meant that we have had to plan and re-plan more often than would have normally done.

While taking a harder look at what we do, we have constantly had to focus on the here and now which means that we have had to adapt and change.

For example, our major thrust area is to work on creating sustainable livelihood opportunities for persons with disabilities and support development of enterprises that are owned, run and managed by them.

With the second wave of the Pandemic, we have had to put a stop to activities such as:

Providing livelihood skills development training;

Organising workshops, orientation days etc.

Over the current lockdown, staff across our Bengaluru and Gadag sites are focused on actions they can take to minimise impact of the Pandemic across communities they work with.

They help to:

Maintain contact with households of persons with disability;

Offer psychosocial support;

Raise awareness on and access to Covid Information & Care services;

Protect households of persons with disability most at risk and reduce community transmission;

Assist with online registration and use of the digital vaccination platform to and take-up of vaccines;

And develop small local community support networks.

Persons with disability from local communities are helping to:

Provide peer-to-peer support through self-help-group networks;

Assist with mask production and distribution;

And assist as community animators ensuring effective communication.

 Doing this helps ensure DEAL Foundation remains relevant during tough and testing times as the one we are all going through.

How do you see the future?

It is an interesting question! Let me just say while we may not feel like it now, we need to hang on to the thought that the Pandemic with all the upheaval and destruction it causes, too will pass.

For now, though we need to do everything in our power to protect and hang on to dear life for another day.

If anything, I feel the future can hold and be full of promise, one we don’t simply squander away by failing to apply lessons we have learnt along the way.

To that extent I feel the future is in our hands and like everything else in life we should make it work for all of humanity and the planet we inhabit.

For work of DEAL Foundation and its stated goal of ‘Creating sustainable livelihoods for 5000 persons with disabilities by 2025’ I’m very hopeful that we will achieve this and help create a lasting impact and models of success.

It is about seeing how best you can prioritize what a given situation demands.

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