Ruma Roka was a homemaker restless to find a mission and meaning to life and a dream to start a school for the underprivileged. One day she came across a news reader interpreting the News on National TV in Sign Language. She was deeply intrigued by the use of hands for communication and decided to learn Sign Language even though she had no deaf person in her family or even in a distant friends circle. In 2004, she completed her course and this knowledge of Sign language got her in touch with the Deaf community and she started researching about the Deaf, their issues and the needs. She started volunteering as interpreter for deaf parents in times of school admissions and at hospitals with ailing deaf adults. The more time she spent with the Deaf, the more she realized the need to do something. There was no looking back from this point. She realized that there were complex issues facing the Deaf in the country such as lack of education facilities, dearth of resources customized for the Deaf and hardly any avenues for holistic development. And most importantly there was no access to quality training leading to sustainable livelihood.
To address some of these issues she started an organization called Noida Deaf Society (NDS) in 2005. She started from a small two bed room flat belonging to her husband and the money from a matured insurance policy. The journey started with just five students and Ruma as the only trainer. Through word of mouth the organisation started growing and is today reaching out to 1000 students every year. The goal is to enable the complete integration of the Deaf into the mainstream through education and specialised vocational programs leading to meaningful employment.
With her deep passion she has driven NDS’s growth from just 5 students to having impacted 4500 youth and facilitated employment for over 1100 trained youth in the formal industry.
She has been invited to speak at various forums and has been instrumental in spreading awareness and sensitizing corporates, schools and the parents of the deaf about the needs, challenges and the abilities of the deaf community.
She was invited to speak at the prestigious platform TED@Bangalore 2012 and at TEDx Gateway Mumbai 2012
She also received the ‘Woman of Excellence Award 2013’ by Woman’s International Network (WIN) for her work in the disability sector. Refer: www.noidadeafsociety.org
NDS was the proud recipient of the prestigious National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled person’s (NCPEDP) Shell Helen Keller Award in the year 2008 for exemplary contribution in employment of people with disabilities. She was also awarded under the category of ‘Idol Makers’ award by prominent news channel in India, IBN 7 and Bajaj Alliance “Super Idol Award” in the year 2010
In 2015 she received the Stree Shakti Sammaan from the Divya Chhaya Trust in memory of philanthropist and educator Shreemati Dayawati Mody.
In 2016 she received the Times Now 'Amazing Indian Award in the Educator of India category from Honorable Prime Minister Narendra Modi .
In January 2016 in a campaign by the Ministry of Women and Child development she was selected as one of the 100 Women Achievers of India under the Disadvantaged and Disability Category and was felicitated by the Honorable President of India Shri Pranab Mukherji at Rashtrapati Bhavan.