Voices of VConnect is one of our new post series that we’re excited to start this month! This is an extension of the Calendar Project by Aashi Doshi. The main motivation behind this is to create awareness about how families navigate through hearing loss, but most importantly to create hope for families and caregivers who are on their own journey to enable their children to learn to listen and talk!

Each story is written by the people of VConnect. The amazing story of each family, their strength, determination, overcoming obstacles with the support of VConnect which helped make their journey easier.

Vahishtai J Daboo

“I had a plan! I would get married, have 2 children in quick succession, take a break from work and get them into fulltime school and go back to my well-paying job as a merchandiser! I had studied Clothing & Textiles and been working in the garment industry for 7 years. My son was born when my daughter was almost two and a half years old, just as we had dreamed and planned. It was all just perfect!

However, God had different plans for us. At one month of age, we discovered that our son had bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss. This changed our path completely from what we had dreamt and planned for. We relocated to Mumbai from Bangalore and started treatment for him from the time he was 3 months old. We started speech therapy, physio/ occupational therapy for him, and did all we could to ensure we did not leave any stone unturned. He wore hearing aids at 5 months of age and with intensive therapy and guidance he started developing words by the time he was a year old. We moved to an AVT center and saw further progress. As technology advanced, we changed hearing aids from analog to programmable to digital hearing aids and used an FM system. Due to the intensive work that we all put in, we could mainstream him age appropriately. We were fortunate that the school principal, teachers, children and parents were extremely supportive towards our son. However there came a time when his language started to plateau, compared to that of his peers. We decided to go in for a cochlear implant for him when he was five and a half years old. However, due to early intervention, we had built the neural connections in his brain already. With the cochlear implant, within a short period of 6 months he was able to listen and understand speech and language on his own. He did not need my intervention nor for me to be there for him 24×7.

I started teaching other children with hearing loss, and soon realized that I needed a deeper understanding of the subject matter, and pursued doing a B.Ed. Special Education specializing in hearing loss. This gave me some basic knowledge, but it was yet not enough. I did the Auditory Verbal Therapy Certification introduced by AYJNISHD(D), which gave me the skills and the required expertise to teach children. I then further pursued my Listening and Spoken Language Specialization from the Alexander Graham Bell Academy, for Listening and Spoken Language Certification, USA and am now one of the five LSLS Cert AVTs in India.”

“In 2004, I attended a very interesting workshop on Parent Support Groups at the Alexander Graham Bell Conference, USA. This is when the seed was sown that it would be wonderful if we could have support groups for families of children with hearing loss in India. I shared this idea with my colleague, Fatema Jagmaag, who is a parent and an Audiologist and a Speech/Language Pathologist. This idea really resonated with her and in 2007, together we formed VConnect Foundation, a parent support group to support the needs of families of children with hearing loss with a small group of parents, which would primarily be a safe space only for parents. We registered it as a charitable organization where parent support was given free of cost. We would meet on a regular basis and talk about/invite speakers to talk on different topics to support parents from Mumbai. Slowly the organization grew, and parents from other parts of India joined the support group and they wanted us to conduct our sessions in their towns and cities.

Fatema and myself are both professionals in the field and had our fulltime commitments. It was becoming difficult to keep devoting time to VConnect as it grew. This is when we decided that we needed to have more like minded parents who would be able to dedicate their time to the organization. Creating a committee, regular brainstorming and planning helped shape the organization and prioritize the needs of the families. We took up certain themes and worked on them and saw a greater impact of our work. As VConnect grew in terms of the parents and our team, we faced newer challenges of managing the team and catering to the needs and challenges that families faced. We started collaborating with professionals in various cities and areas and supporting the families of VConnect.

Based on needs from professionals and parents we would travel to different parts of India on the weekend, take an early morning flight, finish the full day workshop and return on the late evening flight. It was lovely working collaboratively with the professionals and the families, but this also started taking a toll on us and the team members. There were also huge costs involved for the flights, venue booking, food and snacks for the families.

We continued to brainstorm to ensure we could make all of this work without impacting the programs, the need that parents had in the different areas, ensuring our team did not burn out and having enough funds!

When the pandemic hit, from April 1, 2020, we moved to working virtually with families and saw that we could achieve a great deal of work and our reach was so much greater. We were able to reach even families working in the villages and living in remote areas who would join in and all attend the sessions together. In fact, we conducted an 8-month online training of 20 caregivers in mental health in collaboration with another organization.

Our key focus areas that we work on are Education, Mental Health, Advocacy and Knowledge Hub. There are a host of programs under each of these pillars and our team of over 40 dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to strive to ensure the needs of the families are met. Since there has been a need from professionals to want to attend our programs that we offer to families, we have now opened it up and welcome professionals to enroll in most of our programs and have a collaborative platform where they can learn and are encouraged to volunteer their time and expertise for our programs. We are collaborating with organizations and professionals to conduct workshops and programs. We are truly proud to have some of our VConnect children who are now young adults, who come forward to take up projects and volunteer their time for various programs and activities.

As a parent and professional in the field it gives me immense satisfaction with the turn of events and I would not have it any other way. Together WE CAN & Together WE WILL!!! It’s all about coming together to build a community for children and adults who use listening and spoken language with the help of hearing aids or cochlear implants, providing the right kind of therapy and family support!!!

Besides VConnect Foundation, I am the founder of INTEGR△TED SERVICES, for Listening & Spoken Language; a therapy center, teaching children and adults with hearing loss to listen (with cochlear implants or hearing aids) and use spoken language to communicate. As part of INTEGR△TED SERVICES, I work with organizations and centers to provide consultancy on various aspects of Listening and Spoken Language and Auditory Verbal Therapy. I also train and mentor therapists for LSLS Certification and mentor them on different aspects of Auditory Verbal Therapy based on their requirements.

written by Vahishtai J Daboo

LSLS Cert. AVT, Trained in Narrative Practice

Principal Consultant, INTEGR△TED SERVICES, for Listening & Spoken Language (www.islsl.in)

Managing Trustee, VConnect Foundation (www.vconnectfoundation.org)

Fatema Jagmaag

I knew what I wanted to achieve in my life. I fulfilled my dreams and graduated as an Audiologist and Speech & Language Pathologist in 1984. I stood first in the university bagging a gold medal! I got married in the same year and soon after we were blessed with a son. Six months down the road we realised that our son had moderately severe sensorineural hearing loss. In those days we had very little access to technology. We had to import his hearing aids from Germany. I started training my son in speech and language. I also took help of my colleagues and my seniors. But the journey was tough.

I started Shaba Speech and Hearing Centre in 1995, a centre providing services to people with hearing and speech difficulties. My vision was to make it a centre of excellence and to maximize the hearing and speech potentials of children and adults along with their overall development. Today the centre has a fully equipped sound proof audio room for audiological evaluation. This forms the base, from which the children’s hearing is monitored. We also coordinate the repairs and ordering batteries and accessories of hearing aids and cochlear implants. In a fun filled environment we strive to ensure that each child is well balanced in listening, language and cognitive skills, emotional development and social skills.

I met Vahishtai many years ago, when she was also on her own journey with her son, who was also hearing impaired. We both were very persistent in our upbringing and used to wonder how other parents must be coping with their children who had hearing loss. We wanted to be able to help those families who were struggling with their hurdles. That is when the idea began. We both thought of starting a parent support group which would address and support the needs of the families. We connected with a few parents, put our idea across to them and they welcomed it with open arms. And so, VConnect Foundation was founded in 2007. The philosophy of the organisation would be by the people, for the people, of the people.

Initially, it was difficult to get enrolments because we discovered that parents were still in grief. They were doing things for their child without an insight. This helped us to understand and plan workshops as per their needs, so that parents would attend enthusiastically. As VConnect grew, parents from other cities of India started to enrol. The biggest challenge was reaching out to families near their homes. This limited our reach pan India, because we had to travel to different cities to conduct our workshops.”

When COVID 19 hit, everything went online and we were able to connect with our parents all over the country effortlessly. We were even able to reach out to families in remote areas of India.

 Currently, VConnect Foundation works at different levels as per the need of parents and also continues to create more and more awareness among professionals and government bodies. This awareness and advocacy will help our parents mainstream their children in regular society, and this in turn will help our children with hearing loss to be independent and happy.

Our key areas are on Education, Mental Health, Advocacy and Knowledge Hub. We have a team of 40 volunteers, most of whom are parents with children with hearing loss. They are a dedicated team and we constantly brainstorm to see how best we can serve the needs of the children and their families. Together We Can, Together We Will!

When I look back at my journey, I am proud and happy to see how much I have achieved and the contribution I have been able to give to our society.

Apart from being the Co-Founder & Trustee of VConnect Foundation, and the Founder of Shaba Speech & Hearing Centre, I am also Life Member of ISHA (Indian Speech & Hearing Association), Life Member of MISHA (Maharashtra branch of ISHA), Life Member of CIGI (Cochlear Implant Group of India). I am also associated as a consultant with: EAR (The Education Audiology and Research society), Masina Hospital, Prince Ali Khan Hospital & Saifee Hospital.

Written by Fatema Jagmag

Co-Founder & Trustee, VConnect Foundation,

Audiologist & Speech/ Language Pathologist

Purvee Parekh

I was 24 years old. My husband and I were blessed with a beautiful daughter.

We were young parents, who had to do things a bit differently and more aggressively compared to other parents our age, as our daughter was born with profound sensorineural hearing loss in both her ears. It was a difficult time for us. But we never gave up hope.

As young as 18 months she was implanted in her left ear. So, her hearing journey started quickly to bridge the gap. Early intervention is and will always be the path to success. There was no looking back. I was determined and more so she was a very quick learner. She had her 2nd implant at the age of 9 years and was mainstreamed all her life. Schooling had its own challenges, but she worked relentlessly and never took any exemptions in any languages. She studied English, Hindi, Marathi and French as part of her curriculum. Currently our daughter is pursuing her Masters in Integrated Marketing Communication from Northwestern University in Chicago (USA).

I was introduced to VConnect and its founders by Dr. Milind Kirtane. And since 10 years I have been an integral part of this beautiful organisation. Sharing my experience and my journey with other VConnect parents gives me a sense of belonging and happiness.”

Written by Purvee Parekh

Trustee VConnect Foundation, Parent & Philanthropist

Bhagyashree Mohan

Hi, I am Bhagyashree Mohan! I have been an extremely bubbly and enthusiastic kid since birth and have always loved to explore. However, I was grappling to understand the world around me due to profound hearing loss – which was discovered at the age of 1 year and 9 months. At the age of 2 years and 4 months, I was fitted with a cochlear implant which changed my life. From then on, I progressed quickly and soon was unstoppable. True to my name, I received immense support for my surgery from my friends and family. After my implant surgery, I underwent AVT which helped me greatly – I am now fluent in English, Hindi, Marathi and can also speak a little of Tamil and Sanskrit. To prepare for mainstream school, my mother equipped me with good listening and verbal communication skills by singing and talking to me and reciting stories. Furthermore, I enjoy an array of extra-curricular activities like Odissi, badminton, crafts, cooking, gardening and cycling. I aspire to learn new things every day. Today, I am in grade XI, pursuing science, and aspire to contribute scientifically to make the world a better place.”

Written by Bhagyashree Mohan Student

 Aashi Doshi

Hi everyone! My name is Aashi Doshi. I am 17 years old and I was born with bilateral profound hearing loss for which I got cochlear implanted two days before my first birthday. 

I am an extremely social person and love making friends. Prior to the pandemic, I was not a very active person but now I love to exercise and challenge myself through various exercise routines. 

In the initial years after I was cochlear implanted, I did not get adequate support from my speech and audiology therapists in India. But ever since I was a child, I have been a fighter and managed to overcome these challenges. I rely majorly on lipreading and am exceptionally good at it. Nobody can tell I am a cochlear implant user. 

Having an implant has definitely changed my life. Through my implant, I have also had many opportunities that I otherwise would have not had, like working with the VConnect Foundation. I started interning with them in the summer of 2020, and now I work on various projects with them including the teenager support groups that I run with Jehan Daboo and Nupur Chowdary. Working with VConnect Foundation and helping other hearing-impaired children has truly been an enriching and fulfilling experience. I have also released a calendar for the year 2022 with the help of the foundation. The calendar has been purchased by many well-known individuals and corporates across the country. 

I have been fortunate enough to have extremely supportive parents who have nurtured me and made sure that I don’t feel different than a normal child.”

Navyaa Bhardwaj

Hi, I am Navyaa Bhardwaj. I was diagnosed with a hearing loss at the age of 10 months and was fitted with a cochlear implant at the age of 13 months. After this, I proceeded with speech therapy for 2 years. My grandmother helped me with the therapy as both of my parents are hearing impaired too. My grandmother would repeat the activities the speech therapist did, at home for hours. As a result of this extensive practice, I started speaking clearly very quickly. I visit the speech therapist twice a year for mapping and accessories. My extended family was a big help. They gathered funds for the implant, consulted reputed doctors in Mumbai, and assisted in every way possible for speech development. My parents say they were greatly supported by the speech therapist and VConnect team in their journey with my hearing impairment and hearing loss. I am currently in a mainstream school studying Science in class 11. The school ensured that I sat on the first 2-3 benches to be able to hear the teachers clearly, and teachers explained the content to me more frequently to ensure my understanding of the subject content. I prepared myself for school by having an extra charged battery in the bag, having a note in the bag explaining that I am hearing impaired and keeping emergency contact details if the processor was ever lost.

 Riyan Mahesh Katudia

Voices of VConnect  – Riyan Mahesh Katudia

“Hi, I am Riyan Mahesh Katudia. I was diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of 9 months and was fitted with a cochlear implant at the age of 2 years and 6 months. After this, I continued with speech therapy for about 7 years. Speech therapy was extremely useful for my listening and hearing development. My family assisted and guided the overall development of speech and listening by having daily interactions with me by way of play and studies. My mainstream school was extremely supportive and helped me in every way they could by counselling and repeating instructions whenever needed. I passed my SSC exams with a 95.20% and I’m currently in class 11 pursuing Commerce subjects. I love to read, draw, play games, both indoor and outdoor, and watch TV.” 

Written by Riyan Mahesh Katudia


Dhruti Nimeshkumar Shah

Hi, I am Dhruti Nimeshkumar Shah. I was diagnosed with hearing loss and fitted with a cochlear implant at the age of 4 years. After this, I met with an audiologist to discuss the management of my hearing issues. Today, I go to the audiologist only when needed. I went to a speech therapist for 3 years which helped me improve my speaking and listening skills tremendously. Today, I am doing IBPS banking classes and enjoying my hobbies of listening to music and painting. I have participated in a Fine Arts Competition in my college where I made a Ganpati rangoli.

 Sanyukta More

Hi, I am Sanyukta More. I was diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of 1 year and was fitted with a cochlear implant at the age of 3 years. After this, I underwent AVT therapy for 6 years. I had a great experience and particularly enjoyed my teacher. Throughout my CI journey, my parents, sister, and grandmother helped me the most. I was in a school that did not support me well, however, I never gave up and worked hard. I got 89% in my Grade 12 examinations – a reflection of my persistent hard work. I successfully passed my NEET exam and will be pursuing my MBBS from Nagpur. I love to read novels and watch horror movies. My message to other parents is to always explain about hearing loss and cochlear implant to the child because it can help him/her better adapt to the implant. 

VConnect Foundation has conducted many workshops for children and parents which has proved to be very beneficial. I thank all my teachers and therapists who taught me to listen and speak.

– Written by Sanyukta More


Abhijit Sarma

Hi, I am Abhijit Sarma. I was diagnosed with hearing loss at the age of six months and was fitted with a cochlear implant at the age of 8 years. After this, I underwent intense speech therapy (AVT) for about a year. As part of speech therapy, I used to practice listening and speech exercises at home on my own, with occasional help from my family. My therapist would sometimes use visual aids like-colored blocks, field visits, and other speech activities like drama and elocution at school to help broaden and improve my communication skills. Speech therapy opened doors for me and allowed me to interact with my classmates and those around me. For the first two years after my surgery, I went to an audiologist for programming, mapping, and care every three months. However, as time progressed, the number of times I visited my audiologist decreased gradually to once in six months, then once a year, and now I go whenever there is a need to. Extended family and friends have supported me in every step of my listening journey right from the hearing loss diagnosis. My family and I would like to share that the most important thing is to be there for your child and not rely on speech therapists to do all the work. It is important that the family follows the instructions given by the physicians for home exercises, and communicates as much as possible. I love to read, listen to music, and write stories. I was in a mainstream school and my teachers were very patient and helped me in every way possible like repeating instructions and sentences whenever needed. I graduated in Computer Engineering in 2018, after which I worked as a digital marketing analyst at Publicis Media, where I handled the portfolio of an international brand for two years. Currently, I am working as an Assistant Manager at The State Bank of India where I handle a variety of duties such as customer service, loans, advances, etc. 

The last thing I would like to share with you all is – To all the kids out there like me, I’d just like to tell you this. You are all wonderful and brave for having come this far. You all will achieve great things; just believe in yourself. Do not let the fact that you are hearing impaired define you. You can and will show the world just how capable you are. I wish you all the best, and feel free to connect with me if you ever have any doubts or just want to talk.

– Written by Abhijit Sarma

Working Professional