Tiffany Brar

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Tiffany Brar - Annual - WEF - 2018 - New Delhi - India

Tiffany Brar

Founder of Jyothirgamaya Foundation

India

The ladder of challenges finally led me to success!
Being born blind, and being a girl, especially in India, was in itself an enormous challenge for me. The moment my parents got to know I was blind, they were filled with a mixture of emotions, shock, and frustration, which they attempted to hide from me. But despite that they decided to give me a good education, come what may. I started my schooling in England, where my father who was a military officer was posted. After his tenure had finished we returned to India, where I was put into a blind school for some time, then into a sighted school which did not cater to the needs of blind, and where the teacher thought it a nightmare having me in the class. I was met by allot of teasing by fellow students, discrimination, isolation, and negligence on the part of teachers. My father then had to go for the Kargil war, and my mother was very ill, however this did not stop him from answering the call of the motherland. When I was in the eighth standard I lost my mother, I was only twelve at the time, and my dad was torn between his responsibility to the nation, and now a young blind daughter to look after. I then went to integrated schools, and stayed in a hostel for some time, then to military schools. I eventually passed my school with reasonably good results. and went on to pursue my degree in English, and B.Ed. in special education, for I always wanted to pass on my little knowledge to other blind children/adults who were much less fortunate than me. I then worked for a while, and then began to set out on my goal of improving the lives of blind. Till I was nineteen, I myself couldn’t do my own domestic work, or travel alone, I learnt it by and by. In 2012 I started my work for my fellow blind community as a mobile blind school, which means that “if blind can’t go to school/training centre, let the school/training centre go to them!” by travelling to homes of blind people, and teaching computers, mobility, and English. The little knowledge I possess I wanted to share with others, and as I went closer to the blind in Kerala, where I reside, I realized the difficulties they face, and how far better off I am! They are stuck within the four walls of their homes, where parents do not allow them to voice their opinion, go out unaided, do their domestic work, and enjoy life at all. But I felt an inner determination, to do something for them. I resolved not to let my blind friends experience the isolation, I once did. I then went further to start my own organization in 2015 The Jyothirgamaya Foundation. We have taught almost five hundred blind people, access technology, mobility, communicative English and necessary soft skills, which in turn pave the way for their suitable employment. I am also attempting to break the barriers against taking risks, and having adventure. A bit of adventure in life is always good, and adds more spice and fire to life. Life is meant for taking risks! But unfortunately, persons with disabilities are suppressed from such activities. According to the UN convention for the rights of persons with disabilities, persons with disabilities, have equal rights to sports and leisure activities however, I have observed that blind aren’t allowed to do lot of sports and recreational activities here in India. The reason behind this is lack of awareness, fear of the blind to take risks, and more than that fear of the guardians that something will happen to them. As a person, I Love adventure, and believe that life is meant to take risks, and to enjoy to the fullest! I encourage adventure activities at Jyothirgamaya, and enjoy such activities myself too! Life is meant to be enjoyed, and if the sighted can, why can’t we?! As a part of breaking this barrier, of No adventure for blind. I have been paragliding, sky diving, rope riding, tandem cycling rope climbing, and horse riding. I have to the best of my ability enabled my fellow blind students to experience some such activities too, and to come out of that world of inner darkness which they are forced to be in by their guardians and by the community. With an aim of creating attitudinal change towards persons with disabilities, I also give parental awareness sessions, and practical workshops, so that parents can understand that their children with disabilities, have innate potential, and can change their lives, just as other children can. I envision, a society without any physical or psychological barriers towards blind people, and where they are at the forefront!. I have conducted capacity building training, and sensitization workshops, and motivational sessions , in many schools and colleges, within my state Kerala, as well as in different parts of India, including IIT Delhi and eastern command Calcutta. I have conducted sensitization programmes, capacity building workshops, and disability awareness workshops In India, Nepal, Poland, Belgium, and Germany. I recently got an opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at the European parliament in Brussels, Belgium, with eminent personalities, social change makers, and disability activists, on the problems faced by persons with disabilities around the world. I am also a strong advocate of inclusion for persons with disabilities, and disability rights in Kerala. This is only the beginning for me, sky is the limit! I am determined to fulfil my goals and reach the sky!

I had received the following Awards and Achievements
• In 2012, she received the Kerala State Award for Social Worker.
• In 2015, she received the Women of the Year Award from Hope Trust.
• In 2016, she received the For the Sake of Honor Award, Rotary International’s highest award.
• In 2016, she received the Prestigious Saarthak Naari Women Achievers Award
• In 2017, she received the Bold and Beautiful Award from Doordarshan
• I have given five TEDx Talk