Muskaan”, a voluntary “not for profit” organisation, was started in 1982 by a group of parents and professionals. The common ground was a lack of services for their children with Down’s syndrome.
Three decades ago when intellectual disability was still ‘mental illness’ or “mental retardation”, our daily ‘Muskaans’ had faded in our quest for ‘Normalcy’. Decades of interaction with our work associates has taught us that it is not ‘disability’ it is ‘diversity’ – a lesson that brings people together.
At that time there was no precedent in this field, no roadmap or blueprint to follow. It was a learning for us. Everything had to be started from the scratch, curriculum had to be developed and myths had to be busted. We evolved with our work associates and for our work associates. Each step of the way, be it a new process or challenge, they never failed us. This gave us the strength and resolve to provide them with newer opportunities and adapt to their needs. We sustain our day-to-day operations with the support of the community through donation in cash, kind and earnings from renting a small portion of the building.
Registration of society as "Welfare association for Down Syndrome". It was started due to the absence of services for their children
Counselling & guidance of the parents at AIIMS Genetics OPD clinic every Monday to raise awareness of what parents can do for their children
Lectures & workshops were organized for parents 3-4 times in a year; multiservice camp once a year for parents and their intellectually challenged children & adults.
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.
Name of the society was changed to "Parents Association for the Welfare of Children with Mental Handicap".
Established vocational training centre named "Muskaan" in a garage at Kalkaji. Began with masala cleaning, grinding and packing as vocational activities. But within 3 years many more vocational activities were added e.g. variety of gift stationary items, block printing, diya decoration, candles etc.
Started greeting cardsâ project to raise funds and create awareness about intellectual disability
Shifted from Kalkaji to a barsati in safdarjung enclave and then to a basement in hauz Khas. Hauz khas basement was given by a parent Mrs. Savitri Dasgupta who did not charge us any rent.
Our products were of high quality as MET Deptt started placing order for candles to Muskaan.
Delhi Development Authority allotted an acre of land to Muskaan in Vasant Kunj for running a training centre for people with intellectual disability.
It was started for the trained students of Muskaan giving them a monthly stipend.
The number of students increased from 15 to 40 & number of vocational units increased from 4 to 6 & staff increased from 3 to 11 office staff.
Volunteer base increased to include parents, friends from the community, college and school students.
Ministry of Social Justice & empowerment, Govt. of India started giving annual grant for vocational training centre.
Muskaan was registered as a charity in New Orleans, USA in 1999 & got registered under FCRA. 10th anniversary of Muskaan Vocational Training Centre was celebrated at AIIMS auditorium .
Tenders for building construction were floated and awarded to Ahluwalia Contracts. Mr Vikram Ahluwalia and many other engineers gave maximum possible concessions to Muskaan with excellant construction of Muskaan building without any charge.
Japan Embassy gave 35 lakhs. MSJE, Govt. of India gave 9 lakhs. Relatives and friends from USA collected $ 80,000. Friends from the community helped in a big way to raise 2 crores for the construction of Muskaan building. Many people gave old office furniture for use in new Muskaan building.
Got completion certificate from DDA and its formal inauguration of the building was done in April 2004 by Ambassador of Japan and Chairperson national Trust.
Many new programs were added to training e.g. regular yoga & sports, computer training, cognitive enrichment program supported by American Embassy. We started the training centre for severely challenged adults. Students increased from 40 to 76 and staff strength increased to 11 to 17.
Counselling and guidance clinic ( Buti Health & Research Centre) was started in 2004 that operated every Thursday and attended by parents from different parts of Delhi and other cities. It continues to function till now.
Major efforts at streamlining all the training programs in terms of formal curriculum development, assessment, teaching strategies, improved structures.
Introduction of physical fitness, sports & Life skills as part of the daily program; initiation of Art & Therapy Centre especially for high support needs persons.
Muskaan got two awards in 2006 for its pioneering work in the field of intellectual disability. National award from MSJE Govt. of India, state and national award from Godfrey Phillips for its exceptional work in the field.
A major project of Residential facility for people with disability was taken up for which an MOU was signed with National Trust, a statutory body under MSJE, Govt. of India. It aimed at creating a model residential facility taking care of long term need for safe and assisted living of people with intellectual disability, Autism, Cerebral Palsy and multiple disabilities.
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 are conducted for school and college students by organizing their visits to Muskaan and making presentations in their schools and colleges.
Muskaan completed 25 yrs and silver jubilee was celebrated in February 2006. The highlight of the celebration was a play by Muskaan students and teachers as well as a solo dance by famous Bharatnatyam dancer Dr. Vyjayanthimala Bali.
Dera residential facility of Muskaan started Existing MPCC building was renovated for residential purpose. In a unique initiative, Muskaan, in partnership with National Trust, started running this facility on principles of familial love, community living and mutual respect. This model of residential facility adopts an approach which moves away from the care model to an empowering model of assisted living.
An extensive review of programs and its implementation resulted in major boost to work centre. Our challenged adults are showing enhanced sense of work ethics and accountability. Entrusting more responsibility through work structure has allowed them to reach new heights of work performance.
Strategic plan along with an action plan for next 5 years was developed. It was an year long process contributed by Muskaan staff, executive members and our dedicated volunteers.
Art & Craft centre developed more and introduced pottery, paper mache, jewellery making, flower plucking, painting and many other decorative craft activity. 46 challenged students are attending this program.
Extensive awareness advocacy drive to highlight the capabilities of person's with intellectual disability and for their rightful place in society.