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U-Mart: The first supermarket in Mumbai run by special needs children



U-Mart: The first supermarket in Mumbai run by special needs children

According to 2019 data, there are approximately 7.8 children in India who have a disability. While these are the official estimates, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and activists working in this field believe the true total is substantially higher. Because of stigma and a lack of understanding in society, they are denied an education and a respectable life.

According to the 2019 “State of the Education Report for India: Children with Disabilities,” 75 percent of children with disabilities under the age of five and one-fourth between the ages of five and nineteen do not attend any educational institution.

Urja Special School, situated in Mumbai, is one of many organizations attempting to train children with impairments to integrate into society.

Dr. Mihir Parekh and Pooja Parekh, the couple that runs the Urja Special School, established the first of its kind store in Mumbai earlier this month. It is run solely by children with special needs.

“It has been more than three weeks since Urja Supermarket was opened to the public,” stated Dr. Mihir Parekh. The youngsters are still learning how to run the store, and things are picking up.

Dr. Parekh, a child psychologist and special educator with over a decade of expertise who runs Urja Special School, had planned to establish the supermarket for years but was forced to postpone it till now due to the pandemic.

He said, “Urja Supermarket is a continuation of our school’s work. In addition, we have a vocational training program for our children.”

Children with autism, Down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, slow learners, and learning challenges attend Ujra school. Around 15 of them have now been taught to operate the supermarket’s day-to-day operations. A therapist or the store manager also assists them.

Dr. Parekh stated,  “We intend to train them in accordance with their skill levels.  When a customer enters into the store, they must be on their toes and deal with complete strangers. This will assist children in identifying their own abilities, becoming self-sufficient, and developing a sense that they can also contribute to society “

According to Dr. Parekh, the business has given the parents and children new hope and direction in life.

Dr. Parekh said, “They are brimming with energy and eager to learn something else than what they have learnt so far from books. They are extremely driven to visit the business every day in order to learn something new. The most essential thing is that they are meeting and interacting with new individuals. They had previously only met their teachers and classmates at school, but now they have the opportunity to meet complete strangers, greet them with a smile, and assist them in their shopping.”

Due to a lack of awareness and parents’ inability to accept the reality that their child is different, a huge proportion of children with special needs do not receive care or medical support.

According to Dr. Parekh, it is critical for parents to accept their child’s situation rather than going from one doctor to the next in the hopes of hearing what they want to hear.

He added, “It is also critical to demonstrate strong therapy compliance. He also stated that parents should educate themselves on their child’s illness and what future plans they can make for the youngster after they are no longer present.”

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