PAWMENCAP (Parents Association for the Welfare of Mentally and Physically Handicapped) is dedicated to the prevention, early intervention, education, vocational training, socialization and assisted living for the children in its care. The organization also works on issues of social acceptability for differently-abled individuals. It was registered in 1988.
The school started with eight children and now has two hundred and thirty students between six and eighteen years of age. The children come from all walks of life and from all religions with more than 85% of their families living below the poverty line. The children’s disabilities include mental disabilities, autism, and cerebral palsy in all severity levels. PAWMENCAP serves families in a radius of fifteen kilometers, covering several districts in the Hyderabad metro area. It is estimated that more than four thousand mentally challenged children live in its service area.
The school is housed in a series of small buildings, divided into classrooms that are brightly decorated with the children’s work. There is a central common area that also serves as a lunchroom, a physiotherapy room with functional but outdated equipment, and an on-site kitchen. The government funds ninety percent of the cost of the programs and parents are asked to pay ten percent. Those families who cannot afford to pay are asked to make whatever contribution they can manage.
PAWMENCAP’s projects are run by professional educators assisted by parent volunteers. The Association runs several projects, including MAYUKHA (serving 51 intellectually impaired children, ages birth to 6 years old); MANOKRUSHI (serving 95 children between 6 and 18 years old with educational and vocational training); and MANOCHETNA (providing vocational training and workshop space for 84 students who produce items for sale – scratch pads from recycled paper, disinfectant, flower garlands, candles, wind chimes and greeting cards – and work placement services for moderately impaired students).