Established in 2010, Parikh Foundation is a non-profit organization working with high school students and employable adults to provide a range of innovative education and employment opportunities to the special needs community in the US and India.
The primary goal of Parikh Foundation is to disseminate various educational and rehabilitative services and day programs to underserved children and adults living with autism spectrum disorder, Asperger syndrome, ADHD and other developmental challenges.
We are under the aegis of staffing organization Rangam Consultants Inc., Somerset, New Jersey. Rangam is a socially responsible business with strong ties to the autism community.
Parikh Foundation is in process of building a self-sustainable farming model that will provide both therapeutic treatment and financial independence to individuals with autism in New Jersey. Currently we are in talks with Arthur & Friends to set up hydroponic greenhouses on a sprawling 18-acre land in Princeton, NJ. We are hopeful that this collaboration will open up doors to employment for adult individuals with autism spectrum disorder, while also providing healthy produce to the greater community.
One of the goals of Parikh Foundation is to debunk the myth that people on the spectrum have more “limitations” than “strengths”. Given the right opportunities and circumstances, they can learn complex work skills and participate in community activities.
Parikh Foundation and Arthur & Friends will increase and improve employment opportunities that allow individuals to develop specialized agri-business skills and become productive members of the society. The Farm ‘N Earn program is also capable of fostering entrepreneurial and leadership qualities in individuals with special needs.
Nish Parikh, Founder
The needs we are addressing include: healthy working environments, carbon footprint reduction, revitalization of local farming economy, improved access to local produce and most significantly, meaningful training and employment to increase and improve opportunities for disabled individuals to: Earn a livable, minimum wage; Learn and master life-skills, basic work skills as well as specialized agri-business skills; Develop an organizational culture that encourages people to utilize their potential to contribute rather than discounting them on the basis of stereotypes about their "limitations”.
One area of concern is under-representation of the disabled in training environments and workplaces as trainees, or employees with obvious negative consequences in terms of unemployment and dependency. It begs the questions: What can be done to economically empower disabled people so they have equally rich opportunities to acquire marketable skills and find employment comparable to that of their non-disabled peers? We propose a green hydroponic industry serving central New Jersey - managed and run by re-abled individuals. Funding will allow for the construction and startup of a training greenhouse in Montgomery Township, New Jersey within the next six months. It will be sustainable within the 18-month grant period.
In New Jersey, where the Parikh Foundation is headquartered, a staggering 1 out of 68 children is diagnosed with autism. That is nearly 50 percent higher than the national average of 1 out of every 97. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1.2 million people under the age of 21 are on the autism spectrum. 90% of adults with autism are unemployed and 70% are unable to live independently. At least 500,000 children with autism will become adults during the next decade, and they will need homes, jobs, friends and a future.
Target audience includes adults with autism, aged 21 years and above. Our vision is to utilize the agriculturally zoned 18-acre land of the Parikh Foundation to create a dynamic hydroponic farm and provide training and employment to individuals with autism.
The first phase includes a 30’ X 96” training greenhouse that utilize the Arthur & Friends training modules, a nationally recognized training program that specifically targets the needs of the disabled.
The goals of the Arthur & Friends-Farm ‘n Earn greenhouses include facilitating partnering organizations in:
The concept has been implemented with success in the US with vulnerable populations that include individuals with disabilities, ex-offenders and individuals suffering from PTSD. To date it has not been implemented exclusively for those on the spectrum; however, individuals with autism have participated in similar programs with good results.
We believe this is a win-win all around: for consumers, retailers, underserved populations, the environment and communities. All stakeholders achieve significant benefits versus current options for producing, distributing and consuming produce.
The following partners have agreed to collaborate and provide support services, training and clients:
Autism Speaks is the world's leading autism advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism; increasing awareness; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
Eden Autism Services has over 40 years of clinical experience and success in educating individuals with autism, and training family members, educators and other professionals on the best practices.
Arthur & Friends began in 2008 as a social entrepreneurial training and employment program that provides meaningful community employment and training opportunities for individuals 18 years of age and older with disabilities so that they may live, work, and fully participate in their communities. The focus is on creating and expanding employment opportunities, especially for people with disabilities and individuals with socio-economic disadvantages who have for many years been considered unemployable.
Rangam Consultants, a staffing company serving Fortune 500 firms, is run by Nish and Hetal Parikh who are actively engaged in autism-related philanthropic activities, including
Nish Parikh, CEO of technology firm WebTeam Corporation, VP of Rangam Consultants and founder of Parikh Foundation. Nish is a 2016 finalist for the annual NJBIZ Healthcare Heroes awards. He won Verizon’s Powerful Answer Award for building an autism intervention tool called ColorsKit and also won the 2015 AT&T Civic App Challenge award. He is pioneering how to hire individuals with special needs through thespectrumcareers.com and has won ASA’s Care award for that work.
Wendie Blanchard, founder and National Director of Arthur & Friends, a program for the training and employment of marginalized citizens. In 2011, Mary Pat Christie awarded the New Jersey Heroes Award to Arthur & Friends. Arthur & Friends has won a NJ BIZ innovation award, was the recipient of an Edible Communities Food Hero award, designated the NJ Board of Agriculture’s Hero of the Year. The White House has acknowledged the program as one of 50 Champions of Change in 2010.
Gerald Franklin works with ColorsKit as a UI designer. His passion for serving the special needs community led him to join WebTeam. Diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, Gerald was well aware of many of the challenges that face the autism community. Gerald attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to study how to create those shared experiences.
LetUsConnect is an awareness drive to educate the masses about autism spectrum disorder that affects about 1% of the global population. Kicked off in June this year in Gujarat, India, home to about 10 million autistic individuals, the program aims to spread autism awareness beyond North America. The program will combine the collective conscience and immaculate work ethics of some of the brightest high-school and undergraduate students from various countries to change the way autism and other disabilities are perceived in the society.
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