Sharaffudeen (28), a technician working in Dubai, was visiting India for the birth of his second baby boy. In an accident, he suffered a major spinal injury and was paralysed waist down. But that did not stop the wheelchair-bound man from starting his eco-friendly pen and pencil business in 2018 with the help of RC Shoranur, RID 3201.
After being bound to a wheelchair, he wondered if he could ever “start a business for a decent livelihood?” His wife told him about the vocational training camp of RC Shoranur for disabled which he attended and learned to make eco-friendly pencils. After research and many failed attempts, he finally made an eco-friendly product that has a seed at the end of it. “When the pencil is discarded or thrown away it grows into a plant,” he says.
But he was sceptical about approaching buyers. “Though I started this venture to earn some income, I did not want sympathy buyers. I wanted people to see my pens as a way to protect our environment and did not want to haggle for a good price as I don’t compromise on its quality.” Again the club helped him by buying his pens and distributing them to local schools and offices. “Club members came back with more orders. Gradually the demand increased and I was approached directly by other offices and institutions as well,” he recalls. Today he sells close to 9,800 pens a month and “the money I make is enough to lead a dignified life,” he smiles.
Club secretary Krishna Kumar says, “We are glad our training programmes can change the attitude of disabled people. Now, Sharaffudeen makes good quality pens and has learned to get an income with dignity.” The club has added the Rotary logo to the pens which are also given as mementos and return gifts during events. Rotary’s vocational programmes have not only “developed my skills and knowledge, but helped me understand that physical disability is a mindset,” says the entrepreneur.
Pedal to School
As part of RID 3201’s Pedal to School initiative which aims to provide free bicycles to 3,000 underprivileged students aged 12–18 across the district that comprises parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the club has distributed 11 bicycles.
“When we distributed the cycles, a few parents came to us and asked us for laptops. All schools have started online classes and these kids had no medium to keep up with the classes,” says Kumar. The club then approached the school headmasters to select meritorious students from economically weak families. At a recent club event, seven students received LED TV sets and three others received tabs. With the help of a local internet company, the club has organised internet for these students.