At 6am every morning, Divya Bachupally leaves home to travel to the Lemon Tree’s Red Fox Hotel. As a Guest Service Associate, she begins the day by attending to guests in the restaurant and collecting feedback for her manager. Divya is fully visually impaired, but her excellent interpersonal and communication skills have enabled her to create a livelihood opportunity for herself.
Divya underwent her first eye surgery at the age of three and studied in a special school for the blind. After her second eye surgery four years later, she joined the public school system. However, at the age of eleven, she was moved to an orphanage several hours awayfrom her home in Hyderabad because her father tragically died in an accident. Her mother could no longer take care of Divya as she was forced to take up a job. Instead of faltering, Divya decided that she was going to take control of her life.
Through AIF’s Ability-Based Livelihood Empowerment (ABLE) program, Divya learned critical workplace skills and specialized skills through curriculum in hospitality to prepare her successfully to obtain work and succeed in the workplace. Red Fox’s human resource team immediately recognized her excellent command of English and interpersonal skills. Divya now supports her mother and younger siblings by funding their education. Divya was so proud that she bought her mother a sari with part of the money she earned in her first paycheck.
The ABLE program is working to integrate differently-abled individuals like Divya into the workforce in a country where less than two percent of the disabled population is employed. The program is guided by the belief that it is one’s ability, not disability, that defines any individual.
“When I initially joined this job, there were times when I felt that this wasn’t the right place for me, but AIF gave me all the support I needed to stay in the job. I can now comfortably interact with hotel guests, be friendly, and take their feedback,” said Divya. “My dream is to become an IAS [Indian Administrative Services] officer and look after my mother.”