Holi has become a festival of colours in more ways than one for 1,500 mentally challenged young adults across Delhi, thanks to a simple but innovative program begun by Society for Child Development (SFCD) and supported by the Department of Environment.
Called Avacayam (‘dazzling flowers’ in Sanskrit), the program converts hundreds of kilos of waste flowers, that would otherwise have been dumped into the Yamuna each year, into non-toxic gulal.
Says the NGOs executive director Dr Madhumita Puri, “No one has really looked at the opportunity to provide the mentally challenged a space in a [manufacturing] chain, where they could be productive,” says Puri. It was this that led to the formation of Avacayam.
Discarded flowers from temples, marriage pandals, homes and nine hotels in the city are used for this purpose. And the simple task of cutting petals provides them a regular income — for every kilogram of petals cut, they earn Rs 50-100.
In its fourth year now, Avacayam has spread to 30 special schools in the city and even the Tihar jail, and provides regular income to 1,500 disabled adults. This year, they have produced 3000 kgs of gulal and earned Rs 3 lakhs in profit already. “And we are a tiny organisation. Imagine the potential,” says Puri.
The gulal is available at Dilli Haat in South Delhi and Pitampura as well as the NGOs counter in Select Citywalk mall. Organisations and individuals can also donate used and dried flowers by calling at 41727004 or emailing at firstname.lastname@example.org