“My name is Arun Fernandez and I am a Social Entrepreneur who founded DLearners, an initiative for children with learning difficulties. DLearners is essentially an Edu-Tech platform that helps address issues like Dyslexia.
I founded this organization because of my personal experience as a person with Dyslexia. As is the case with most children with Dyslexia, my journey has been full of ups and downs. I struggled with reading and writing, hated exams, failed tests, and was forced to move to seven different schools. I was termed lazy, and an underperformer. My teachers and peers never took me seriously. My only source of solace was sports; I was a state-level tennis player. Sports was a means of escape for me and the tennis court was the only place where I felt alive and powerful.
My father, who had his own flourishing logistics business, was always disappointed in me as he wanted me to excel in academics. Despite my sincere and earnest efforts, he always complained that I was not trying hard enough at school. I had very few friends because I was always switching schools. My self-confidence took a beating. I was always dejected, felt misunderstood and felt like I had let my family down. I desperately wanted to be understood and heard. I wanted people to know that I was trying hard to read but was unable to. Unfortunately, my cries remained silent; my cries remained unheard.
Thankfully, my mother had immense faith in me and was my biggest ally. She appreciated my efforts and sought solutions from experts who confirmed that I had Dyslexia. I realized then that I was not dumb, I was just a different learner. With my mother’s encouragement and special educators’ guidance, I managed to clear my 12th grade successfully and went on to pursue B.Com. from Loyola College. I went to Hong Kong for a course and to pursue a career there. However, I always knew that I was not meant for a desk job. It was my earnest desire for those less fortunate than me. It was in Hong Kong that I discovered my interest in social work.
I returned to India as I wanted to pursue an MSW course. But my father was against the idea. However, I did not let his disapproval faze me. I completed the course, and that is when I got a perspective on social entrepreneurship. I realized that I could make a difference in the lives of students with specific learning disabilities like me. I knew that I did not want any other student with Dyslexia to undergo what I went through.
This set the impetus to start DLearners in 2014 – as a platform that provides seamless education opportunities for school children with specific learning disabilities (SLD). It was a way to bridge the gap between urban teachers and students from tier 2 and tier 3 cities. With the help of actor Jayam Ravi as our brand ambassador, our partners, and well-wishers, we have impacted over 800 students and 2000 government children in 6 states of India.
I would like to take this opportunity to inspire each one of you to celebrate our differences and appreciate each human’s thoughts. Dyslexia may be an invisible disability, but it is not a weakness. It is a unique trait that sets us apart from others. As a nation, we need to move away from archaic ideas that define reading and writing abilities as key measures of intelligence. After all, every child is special and comes with his/her own strengths and talents.
My journey has taught me that learning difficulties should not limit us from achieving our dreams. We need to believe in ourselves and never give up. With perseverance and determination, we can overcome any obstacle and make a difference in the world.”
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