In Conversation With Shreya Jain, Founder of Reservoir, The Social Enterprise Which is Connecting People With Intellectual Disabilities

Cinema and books have brought enough attention to the neurobehavioural condition and autism over the years. According to data by the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in 160 children across the globe has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It also stated that while some people with Autism Spectrum Disorder can live independently, others have severe disabilities and require life-long support and care. And we recently got to speak to one such lady, Shreya Jain, who is helping in connecting people with intellectual disabilities with her social enterprise, Reservoir. The Reservoir is a platform that helps families of children with special needs build future security solutions and connect with each other.

Starting Journey to The New Path

The year-old Mumbai-based platform, Reservoir promotes inclusivity for the differently-abled in the Indian societal and legal context. The 25-year-old founder and CEO of Reservoir, Shreya Jain, grew up in Chandigarh with a sibling who has autism. As a result, a lot of which her life experiences are nurtured and shaped with close association to neurodiversity and her mother runs a special school.

In 2013, Shreya moved to Mumbai to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry and to study the dual degree in Chemical Engineering and MBA. However, in 2018, she moved to New York for a training program and where it all started. She added, "In 2018 I moved to New York to work with an organization called the 'Global Autism Project' to develop a training program for social enterprises. This experience was life-changing and the exposure to the support infrastructure available for autism left me awestruck. After moving back to India, I soon changed tracks; quit my pharmaceutical job with a manufacturing company to start Reservoir".

Back then and even today, Shreya's main motive was to elevate was to bring in the quality of lives led by the neurodiverse families. Talking about the platform, she said, "I started building a platform for the neurodiverse community in India, which would allow families with special needs individuals to find trusted service providers, build local support groups and increase awareness".

Various Services of The Social Enterprise

The social enterprise, Reservoir understands the intricacies of laying out for special needs and helping the families to execute the necessary steps of future planning like writing a will, managing their resources to last their child's lifetime and more. They have partnered with the best service providers across all the verticals. Also, all of their partners are experts in the field and are highly sensitized towards the different needs of the ASD community.

She added, "As a community platform, we work with different stakeholders to build a seamless network of support and services. We work closely with families to help them prepare for their child's security in case of emergencies and in the absence of the guardians. We assist them in legal and financial planning; sensitize them to take important steps to ensure future security against financial abuse and work towards general well being".

Talking about collaborating with different organizations, Shreya said, "We collaborate with different organizations, mostly schools, to conduct workshops and offer this knowledge and our services to parents. We are now focusing on corporates as well to be a strategic 'inclusion and mental health' partners for their employees to promote a more inclusive culture".

Challenges Faced

(Image Source: Instagram/reservoirnow)

Like any other organization, Shreya too faced challenges while setting her social enterprise. One of the critical challenges was that there was a lack of awareness that led to parents not opening much about disability. Also, there was no government aid and ard to raise funds for social enterprises.

She added, "My mother has worked in this field her entire life, and she knew I was giving up my financial security when I signed up for this. We face multi-level challenges or ones that run parallelly. The level of awareness & acceptance being low leads to parents not opening up about disability and not reaching out for help. The social stigma creates a lot of chaos and mistrust- so to build a platform that is trusted by your community is tough. There is practically no government intervention, no centralization or quality control which makes the whole sector unorganized with no price caps on services. Lastly, it is hard to raise funds for social enterprises in this space- most VCs don't understand the scope of organizing this sector".

Impact And Collaboration With We Work

The Reservoir has created detailed security plans for neurodiverse families. One of their clients has a single child with cerebral palsy, and we planned his current lifestyle, favourite things like going out for a meal, support devices, everything needed to make this possible. Through this, all things would come super handy. Also, they run campaigns like 'Pen Pal' where they connect a neurodiverse individual to a neurotypical person to help them get to know each other's world better.

The social enterprise has reached to over 250 families in the last year. Over 60 professionals in Mumbai network, they have to facility better services. Shreya added by giving the stats, "We have also reached out to 1000s of people via our content campaign on social media and WhatsApp. We have been a part of several large conferences and panel discussions like- International Autism Conference, Hyderabad (Paper Presentation); Inclusive Conference, NewzHook (Panel Discussion), FP Network Masterclass (Speaker) and more."

Collaborated with We Work so that people get better access to neurodiverse service and hosted a 3-day long event to increase awareness. She added, "We have collaborated with We Work as a resource partner for all their members and employees. I believe when corporates take a strong stance to support neurodiversity, it will go a long way in changing people's mindset towards 'disability' and in creating a more inclusive environment".

They want to make Reservoir a one-stop-destination for all the neurodiverse community and in future, want to grow the partnerships to maximize the impact. We are so proud of Shreya Jain, in such a young age she came with such an incredible step towards inclusivity and diversity.

(Featured Image Source: Linkedin)