For over five-decades now, the differently-abled trainees at the rehabilitation unit of Fr. Muller Medical College Hospital in Mangaluru are turning into 'master' artisans in greeting card and handicraft making. Their artistic endevour that comes alive especially during Christmas has not only gained them recognition far and wide in Europe, but is also aiding their financial sustainability. "We cater to 'orders' for other festivities also, but during Christmas there is a sizable order from the global market," says Sr. Rosaline D’Souza, in-charge of the rehabilitation unit of Fr Muller Medical College Hospital.
Bulk orders from Germany, France, United Kingdom, Australia, continue to pour at this rehabilitation unit, despite technological advancements in the form of email-greetings and Whatsapp forwards. "Yes, there is a popular preference to digital-technology over hard-copy greeting cards these days due to cost effectiveness and easy accessibility. But then there are also people that wish to share handmade and personalized greetings for their dear-ones during festive seasons, which is encouraging," she says.
Of the various creation by the 'differently-abled', most customers re-order for materials processed through ‘Batik-Printing’. D'Souza adds that Batik cards are a bit of a challenge to make, since it requires a combination of wax and colour dyes to give that visual imagery on the fabrics. "The fabric used to make 'Batik' greeting cards are first covered with wax and then crumpled to create fine lines. "The material is dyed with bright colours that penetrate through these lines (while avoiding the area covered with wax) create an impression of intricate designs. Post processing the artisans scrape off the wax and the fabric is cut into greeting card sizes and stuck on paper. Later, different visuals are customised and printed on the card using ‘screen printing’ method," Sr. Dsouza says.
Priced between Rs. 24 to Rs 30, the rehabilitation unit not only receives orders from abroad but also different private organisations, corporates and students from India.
Besides cards the unit also manufactures wooden toys such as marionettes, picture blocks, memory blocks, tote bags, files, folders for conferences and conventions made out from cloth and jute, says an employee Dileep.
The rehabilitation unit began as part of 'occupational therapy' for leprosy patients by Swiss woman Heidi Dutt Zehnder at Fr. Muller Medical College Hospital in in 1965, since patients once affected by it found lesser acceptance in the mainstream society. Till date, the centre over the period has employed over 400 employees, most of them are differently-abled.
"The idea of our founder was to give necessary emotional-help, socio-economic aid and training to the differently-abled persons and make them acceptable in society, enabling them to live a life with dignity," says Sr D'Souza.