Sector: Community Based Rehabilitation for the Disabled
For many of us, good health is something we have taken for granted. But for a young man in the village of Kasba Nirvana, health has become a medium to reach disadvantaged people. He transformed his own disadvantage not only for his own betterment, but for the betterment of all differently-abled people. Up until the 9th standard, Rinku was just like every other teenager. He attended school and played sports with his friends. However, in the 9th standard Rinku started having severe pain in his legs. His parents took him to a hospital and Rinku received treatment. Despite intervention, the illness started to increase. One day his body could take no more and he collapsed on his bed. After days of being confined to the bed, Rinku’s parents started losing hope that he would recover from the illness and be able to walk again. Because Rinku was bed-ridden, he started losing his support system since he could no longer go to school or play with his friends. Eventually, Rinku’s illness left him physically challenged and contained in his room. He also had to deal with the psychological effects of going from an active lifestyle to one of complete dependence and immobility.
As Rinku lay helpless on his bed, a spark of hope emerged in the form of Dr. Kshama Metre (affectionately called Dr. Didi). One day, Dr. Didi had gone to Kasba Nirvana to see a Mahila Mandal (Village Women’s Group) meeting. A member of the Mahila Mandal was aware of the desperation of Rinku and brought it up to Dr. Didi and the other women at the meeting. Dr. Didi went to Rinku’s house and brought him to CORD. After viewing X-Rays, Dr. Didi suspected that Rinku had Ankylosing Spondylosis where the vertebrae fuses together. She then sent Rinku for a checkup at the local government hospital. The doctor confirmed her diagnosis. Dr. Didi convinced Rinku to stay at CORD for one week so he could receive regular physiotherapy. By this time, Rinku was frustrated with life and could not understand why this was happening to him. Dr. Didi noticed that Rinku had become an absolutely broken down youth. While at CORD, Rinku’s parents could not accompany him because they had to continue working and earning money to pay for Rinku’s medical treatment. CORD workers stayed with Rinku day and night and motivated him to never give up. After one week at CORD, Rinku could sit up for a while. But after some time he would have to lie back down. Despite this progress, Rinku still remained frustrated.
After one week at CORD, Rinku continued his therapy at home. He worked with CORD’s field workers regularly to improve his condition. In due time, Rinku’s mother learned the rehabilitation exercises from the CORD workers and began doing them with her son. Rinku never forgot about CORD. After putting in a lot of hard work, one day Rinku surprised Dr. Didi when he walked into CORD with only the support of a walker. Finally, Rinku could stand by himself.
Rinku faced yet another challenge when he started experiencing hip joint problems. CORD used its network with Christian Medical College in Ludhiana to perform flexor release surgery for Rinku. The funding for this surgery came from loans from local Self-Help Groups and CORD. With hard work after the surgery, Rinku shifted from a walker to crutches and then to a single crutch. This physical transformation reflected an inner transformation taking place within Rinku. With each step, he gained more confidence and slowly became less frustrated with his situation. He once did not like to leave his room, but now he felt he could approach and befriend strangers. Throughout his difficulties, his village always supported him. CORD even started a Self-Help Group around him in his village where he was a member. CORD also encouraged him to start a business of his own. Rinku took full advantage of this opportunity and opened a small tea stall so he could become self-sufficient. He was extremely proud of his accomplishments and felt he was in a position to help others.
Rinku became very active in Chinmaya Umang, a forum formed by families of the differently-abled. He also had the opportunity to attend and present at a national level workshop on disabilities. As he was giving his presentation about his disability at the workshop, he became motivated and was filled with enthusiasm at the prospect of helping others who were in a similar situation as him. Although his legs were not strong, his heart and his mind were stronger than ever. If only he could channel his motivation in the right direction.
He then thought about Dr. Didi and the work at CORD. He decided that he could help Chinmaya Umang bring about positive changes. When there was a vacancy for the position of president at Chinmaya Umang, Rinku knew that this was his calling. He won the election and became the group’s President. Rinku’s vibrant leadership has created a friendly and productive atmosphere. As President, he fights for the rights of disabled people and educates the public on disability issues. Rinku wanted to spare others the frustration and hardship of dealing with a system that neglects the differently-abled. He helps educate other disabled people who are not aware of their rights. He also takes legal action by bringing up issues of the disabled in the political arena. Rinku and other differently-abled individuals are not asking for special treatment; they are only asking for the necessary accommodations so that they can be integrated into society. With the help of CORD, Rinku was able to obtain his disability certificate, a free bus pass, pension, etc. Rinku also got involved at the local level by networking with Mahila Mandals (Village Women’s Groups), Self-Help Groups, and Youth Clubs.
Currently, Rinku is an active member of society. He used to commute to CORD via a CORD vehicle; however, now he takes local buses. He has formed a youth club in his village and he even attends Gram Sabhas (public meetings of the local governing bodies) so that he can represent the differently-abled in his village forum. He goes from village to village mobilizing resource persons. These people come to CORD and are educated on the issues facing the differently-abled. They then share this information with their local villages.
Today, Rinku feels that he has his own identity and can be an example for other differently-abled people in his community. This once broken down boy can now keep his head up and be an inspiration for others.
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