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Working with 'Samvedna' (Empathy)

April 30, 2015

The world is big but it is also connected. That is how a friend of ours, Ben Richards came halfway across the world to work with one Dr. Nathan Grills in their combined quest for rights and dignity of people with disabilities. And that is how the JOYN family grew through the addition of inspiring individuals from a few remote villages in the mountains of Uttarakhand, India.

 It is a pretty incredible story.

Samvedna= Empathy

Ben Richards is an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. He visits India periodically to work with non-profits. Ben and his friend, Dr. Nathan Grills, have worked tirelessly to provide opportunities for inclusion and hope in communities and especially people with disabilities within these communities. The Hindi word ‘Samvedna’ means ‘empathy’. It does well as name of thenon-profit that Dr. Nathan Grills helps to manage in the mountains of New Tehri: a cluster of villages about four hours up the mountains from where the JOYN headquarter is.

JOYN in Empathy

Work is a large part of one’s social acceptance and community. We believe that all who are able should be given the opportunity to have a job. We desire to give opportunities to those who need it most. In India, individuals with disabilities struggle to find community, hope, identity and a future. So much of this starts with work, and one of our greatest accomplishments is being able to create jobs for people. This starting step has the potential to give people wings and it is amazing to see what individuals, who are written off by society, are able to do when they are not inhibited. 

New Beginnings

In April,Samvedna arranged for a group of men and women to come down from their villages in the mountains and train at JOYN in the art of block printing. Their stories of life in remote parts of the Himalayan mountains are remarkable, and need to be told in detail in a separate post.

These individuals either havedisabilities of their own or have children with disabilities. In the two weeks, they learned the basics of block-printing and practiced three different blocks of reasonable ease to get started on. With it, they were immersed in the culture at JOYN that- we hope- has shown them how loving and thriving a community can be when all its members are treated with dignity and justice. We believe that these individuals will take back with them the skills of block printing and a way of looking at people with disabilities in their villages as useful and ‘able’ members of their community.

Growing this Partnership

Samvedna is now getting their infrastructure ready to begin block printing up in the villages. The ten master trainers who left from here will now work in these villages and will, in turn train twenty people in each village. This new team will consist entirely of individuals who have disabilities or parents of individuals with disabilities. 

Meanwhile,Samvedna has sent its second batch of trainees: a group of women who are learning beading and embroidery.

Our desire would be to continue to grow our programs to not just train individuals with disabilities, but give them sustainable work that they enjoy, that gives them purpose, meaning, community and hope. We would love to be known as a place where no individual in need of work is turned down.


The JOYN family is gradually and happily growing. You, reader, should feelproud for you are a big part of it too. The world is big but it is also connected.

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