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Visually impaired Madhu Bala Sharma to inspire, speak at AIF New England gala

Madhu Bala Sharma

BOSTON–At the American India Foundation’s New England gala on  Saturday March 18, attendees will have the opportunity to hear the story of a young woman named Madhu Bala Sharma. Madhu is  visually impaired and is part of the AIF’s Ability-Based Livelihood Empowerment program, known as ABLE.

The story of Sharma who is blind from birth is inspiring. When she was eight years old  she started selling calendars and bookmarks for the sake of fun, but she loved it so much, that later she took on to selling bangles, gas lighters, and then cosmetics.  While at school she also took on to tutoring so she could earn something to be independent.

Madhu Bala Sharma

Through AIF partner NGO, NAB ( National Association for the Blind) who  supported her throughout her education she started learning computers.  As part of the skill development, she underwent computer courses in NAB when she was in grade 10 and 12th.  When she was in the final year of college, she got an opportunity to try for the job of a voice and accent trainer in GE capital International Services.

Says Sharma, “I was the first one with visual disability to take up the role of a Voice and Accent Trainer, both at GE Capital International Services and at IBM Daksh, now Concentrix.  I took it as a challenge to ensure that I’m able to create a new career opportunity for persons with visual disability”.

To reach where she is now Sharma had to undergo plenty of challenges which she hopes to share at the gala on March 18th. She will be accompanied by Shalini Anand of NAB.

Sharma says “The trainings that I have undergone in NAB have played an important role in shaping my personality and given me the confidence to be what I am today. There are many more like me, who have benefitted and continue to benefit from such life changing training programs at NAB supported by AIF”.

Sharma now says she holds her own workshops to enable others because now the participants all tell her, “You are so inspiring and energetic”, and I say because you believe in me!”

While there is an opportunity to meet Sharma  at the gala, AIF in New England recently recorded the impressions  of a visit of  an AIF program in Mumbai by one  local champion in New England, 12 year old Sanya Goenka, a Wellesley, MA native  and an AIF Young Ambassador

This is her story in her own words:

“One good deed goes a long way and that’s what my sister and I noticed on our recent trip to India where we visited the AIF  ABLE site – Deeds Catering Institute in Mumbai.

Sanya Goenka

Deeds Catering School is a school for deaf children around the ages 17 to 19, and the school teaches them how to cook/cater.The kids are taught 100 recipes of all different types of cuisines such as Indian, Italian, and Western food. This course lasts for one year and part of the course is to learn how to read and write English. Since most of the kids come from low income families, the school is free of cost and the kids receive an additional sum of money to help with transportation, and other fees. After this the students will have to take a final exam to pass the course. Once a student successfully passes the test they are put into hotel kitchens to be trained further and make a living. Some of these include the Taj and  Marriott hotels. Since the school has started they have successfully trained 53 students.
My experience at the school was very inspiring and interesting. Both the students and teachers were very kind. When I had arrived at the school the students were studying and I got to take a look at some of the lessons and textbooks that they were using. These books contained, all the dishes and how to make them. After this I got to look around the classroom which had lots of stoves and many cooking stations. There was also an area for the students to study. I got to look at all of the dishes the students cooked that day and even tasted some of the food. It was great! I asked the students about the dishes they had made and they answered in sign language (the teachers speak it and helped with the translation ). Overall my experience at the Deeds Catering School was incredible as AIF is providing these under privileged kids a life long living support. I can’t wait to go back next year!”

In a country where less than 2 percent of its disabled are employed, AIF is revolutionizing the industry paradigm in India by providing equal opportunity and access to employment for persons with disabilities, based on a simple belief – it is one’s ability, not disability, which defines any individual.

The Ability Based Livelihood Empowerment program trains persons with disabilities in fundamental and specialized skill sets – and facilitates their entry into the job market through a robust advocacy platform for disability inclusion, promoting inclusive growth in India.


  • Focus on persons with Visual, Hearing, and Orthopedic disabilities
  • Specialized curriculum development
  • Massage Therapy (Visually impaired)
  • Hospitality (Hearing impaired)
  • Mobility (Orthopedic impaired)
  • Assistive Technology & Workplace Solutions
  • Access to Employment
  • Market-aligned curricula
  • Job mapping
  • Career counseling and preparation
  • Advocacy for inclusivity and equality of PwDs through employer outreach, workshops and trainings
  • Capacity Building of NGOs.

AIF NGO partnersin clude Ability Foundation | ACE, DEEDS Public Charitable Trust | EnAble India, Livelihood Resource Centre- Cheshire Homes India, National Association for the Blind | SNS Foundation, Shishu Sarothi | SPARC India, Trust For Retailers & Retail Associates Of India (TRRAIN)

To register for the 11th annual gala on March 18th please click here.




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