Parents supporting one another to create opportunities for our children to realize their potential

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Jeena which means “To Live”, in Hindi, is a non-profit organization, in California, USA, dedicated to empowering individuals with developmental disabilities, and offering emotional and information support to their families.

The organization is a legacy of the founders’ daughter, Gina. After Gina died, a few days shy of 16 months old, Rajni found she was not alone in her feelings of helplessness, guilt, loneliness and a myriad of emotions. There were other families, living in the Bay Area, of South-Asian origin, who also felt isolated and confused. These families struggled with navigating the complex insurance benefits, State and County resources and educational services for their children. Theirs was a life unlike any typical immigrant; these families did not have a “village” to support their child’s needs or their own emotional wellbeing.

Jeena was formally formed and became the first non-profit organization in CA for families of South-Asian origin in 2000. The very first program was a three days/week playgroup for one month in August 1999. Supported by a speech therapist and an occupational therapist, seven children with a range of developmental disabilities and age range of 4yr to 7yrs met in a clinic while their parents exchanged information about services and resources, sitting outside the clinic or in a coffee shop a few feet away from the clinic. In that one month, strong connections were being formed and friendships were being forged.

By the end of the first year, Jeena had grown the parent support network from 7 to 50 families. We met in parks and local libraries. We created opportunities for our children to engage socially by organizing field trips to swimming pools, movie theaters and train rides to name a few. We organized family overnight summer camp and invited specialist for workshops addressing specific needs of our members.

By 2003, Jeena had a sprawling center in Milpitas, CA. Jeena members often described the center as “home away from home”. Members organized multiple classes for the children, arranged workshops for parents and offered intervention support for children while families navigated the labyrinth of agencies each with their own eligibility criteria and bureaucracy.

By 2018, Jeena’s membership rose to approximately 750 and a well established chapter in Southern CA. Over the years, our annual event Jeena Yahaan has provide a platform for our children to showcase their talent, changing the conversation to offering opportunities with support and compassion.

Although JeenaBoard made the hard decision of closing the Center due to the pandemic in 2020, Jeena’s tradition of organizing activities for our children and offering information and emotional support continues online. We hope to once again offer in-person support.

Organizing an activity in Jeena is as simple as sending an email. There are no hoops to jump through,no hierarchies or bureaucracy or paperwork. There are no employees. We are a self-help group of parents. Send an email to, describe the activity and if there is an interest by 5 additional families in that activity for 6 weeks. We have an event. We call it our 6 x 6 x 6 model.

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Meena Chockalingam Bedekar
Meena is the mother of 3 children including a 19 year old with Angelman Syndrome. Her passion and focus in Jeena, is to ease the Special Needs journey, by sharing resources and providing emotional and intervention support. She also serves in the Board of Orange County Regional Center to bring awareness to challenges faced by Special Needs families and suggest solutions to make their quality of life better.

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Jayanthi Dixit
Jayanthi is the mother of a 26 years old son with Autism. Representing Jeena from Southern California she connects parents and bridges the information and experience gaps for them. She co-ordinates various virtual classes with SoCal members. She also serves on the Board and Advisory committee of San Gabriel Pomona Regional Center.

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Rajni Madan
Rajni is one of the founding members of Jeena and is currently the President/CEO of the organization. Her focus is in strengthening the Jeena Board and the executive committee. She spearheads the overall management in carrying out the purpose and policies as established by the Board of Directors. When not volunteering for Jeena. Rajni works as a clinician in adult psychiatry for a large HMO.

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Cheruvalath Prabha

Prabha is a long standing Jeena volunteer turned Board member, a special educator with more than 22 years of experience. She is also the mother of 2 young adults and involved in many other educational organizations that foster equity of exceptional individuals.