Dharmender is 11 years old and comes from a very poor family who live in a rural village outside Varanasi. When he joined our centre last year, he was barely able to sit up without support – let alone walk – and spent all his time sitting or lying inside his house. Thanks to the daily physiotherapy he receives at the centre, he has learnt how to walk independently with a rollator, and can even take a number of steps completely unassisted.
In spite of his new found mobility, outreach staff from the centre noticed that Dharmender was still struggling to move around his house or go to the toilet independently because the ground inside and outside the house was made of mud and very bumpy, while the family’s only toilet was the shared toilet in the field outside their house. To solve this issue, we concreted the floor of the house, added a ramp and railing outside, and built a toilet inside. This means that Dharmender can now move around and perform all of his daily living activities independently. He clearly loves being able to move by himself – and soon he will even be able to walk to the bus stop on his own!
Aakash is 8 years old and is a sweet, intelligent boy with an adorable smile. When Aakash’s mother was pregnant with him, she was unwell, but couldn’t afford to go to the doctor. Aakash was born with cerebral palsy, and was never able to walk. Nor did he ever go to school – in spite of his intellectual ability – and spent most of his time inside his house, a one room hut in a village outside Varanasi. When we first met Aakash, we gave him a wheelchair and enrolled him at our centre, ensuring that he received regular therapy and education. We also sent our community outreach team to travel to his house and modify it by adding a ramp, railing and concrete throughout. These changes made a huge difference to Aakash’s life. Now that his house no longer has steps or an uneven, muddy floor, he can move around it in his wheelchair, and will no longer have to sit in the mud during monsoon season. What’s more, thanks to the physiotherapy he receives at the centre daily, he is learning to walk, and the therapists at the centre are confident that he will soon be able to do so independently. He practices his walking outside his house holding on to the newly installed railing – with a look of much concentration and a big smile on his face! Perhaps most exciting of all is that, after years of being unable to go to school, Aakash is now able to get an education. He has learned to read and write (both in Hindi and English), knows his times tables, and loves to paint. He is incredibly studious and determined, and enjoys helping other students with their work. Now that he’s been able to catch up on all the years that he’s missed, he is attending a mainstream school every day – and receiving the education that he, and every other child, no matter their circumstances, deserves.
In June 2017, we distributed 136 chairs in Bangalore and Varanasi, in some cases reaching recipients from extremely remote villages. It was here that we met Prakash, a 14 year old boy whose last wheelchair broke four years ago. This was the first time he had left his house since. Prakash was initially extremely shy – understandable for someone who has been inside one room for the past four years. But little by little, he began to relax, telling us how excited he was to finally be able to move around his village again and regain the independence that he deserves.
Last week Walkabout returned to India to distribute a container of wheelchairs with our local partner, APD in Bangalore. In total we fitted 257 wheelchairs to children and adults suffering from a variety of conditions ranging from cerebral palsy (CP) to spinal cord injuries (SCls) very often sustained as a result of traffic collisions and accidents at work.
The number of children born with CP in India is very high, especially in the poorer rural areas, where marriage within the same family, although in decline, is still fairly common and where antenatal care is negligent and many women give birth in unsuitable conditions. The problem is further aggravated by the fact that these parents often have no means or guidance whatsoever on how to take care of their disabled child, who will suffer unnecessarily from a variety of side effects such as severe postural deformities and malnourishment due to inadequate care. As for those spinal cord injured, their families also frequently have no knowledge on what care is required and consequently many suffer from life threatening infections and pressure sores that could have been easily avoided.
Fortunately, there are wonderful organisations doing amazing work to serve their communities, some of which we are privileged enough to work with. APD, for example, is doing an incredible job through their early intervention programme, where they liaise with local hospitals to identify CP cases at birth and give appropriate advice and support to the families, and through a spinal cord rehabilitation unit they operate. They also run an extraordinary livelihood programme where they train disabled people on a variety of vocational skills ranging from gardening to hospitality and computer skills. We visited their horticultural centre in the outskirts of the city where 150 disabled individuals learn gardening skills over 3 to 6 month courses and leave to a guaranteed job which APO sources for them.
We were deeply moved and humbled by everything we saw and learned during our stay in India. Walkabout truly hopes to continue to count on your generosity to be able to support these invaluable organisations through wheelchairs and rehabilitation.
On the 31st May 2014, Team Walkabout travelled to India for the first time to distribute 250 Leverage Freedom Chairs (LFC) alongside The Association of People with Disability (APD) Bangalore. Bryony and Georgie were accompanied by a team from GoGrit, designers and manufacturers of the LFC.
The LFC is a new rough-terrain wheelchair where the riders push levers instead of the wheels, giving them the torque they need to move beyond to pavement. As well as a full distribution day at the main APD campus in Bangalore, the team also travelled to a number of districts throughout the state of Karnataka to fit all 250 wheelchairs during the five-day distribution.
Walkabout would like to commend APD on their outstanding commitment to helping the disabled community of Karnataka, and all of the support and hard work in helping put together such a well organised and successful week. Special thanks also goes to the team from GoGrit for their invaluable help.