It was a small gathering of big changemakers who were committed to make the world a better place to live in. At the premises of The Association of People with Disability (APD) in Lingarajapuram on Wednesday, a simple ceremony was held to present the ‘N S Hema Award for Outstanding NGO in Disability Sector in Karnataka’ for the first time. The award went to ‘Tamahar Trust’, the brainchild of occupational therapist Vaishali Pai, that works with children who suffer from brain damage. The award carries a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh and a citation. Along with ‘Tamahar Trust’, two other NGOs — Asha Kiran Special Needs School and Seva Bharathi Mangalore — were selected to receive special assistance from ‘Disability NGOs Alliance’ (DNA). A total of ten NGOs were shortlisted by a jury as finalists for the prize from a total of 33 who applied. Says Basavaraj, CEO, DNA, “We intend to connect the top three to the best practices in the sector and make them role model organisations. NGOs as a sector have limited exposure and this has to change for them to grow.” Dr Siddaraju, Director, Department for Empowerment of Differently Abled and Senior Citizens, who was representing Uma Mahadevan, Principal Secretary was present at the occasion. K N Tilak Kumar, Joint Managing Director and Editor, Deccan Herald, was the special guest. The programme started with prayer songs by master Pramod B K. This was followed by a welcome address by Christy Abraham, CEO, APD. An audio-visual detailing the life of APD founder N S Hema and the many initiatives she started was next. Alex Rodriguez, secretary, DNA and jury chair explained the selection process for and Mohan Sundaram, vice president of APD and jury member, announced the winners.
Dr Siddaraju spoke about how N S Hema remained an inspiration for all and specified on the need for inclusive growth. Tilak Kumar retraced the journey of APD from a garage to a huge campus and praised Hema for having turned her physical disability into an opportunity to serve people. He also spoke about the lack of facilities for the differently-abled, especially in rural areas, and highlighted the need to change public perspectives. This was followed by a short speech by Ramdas, one of Hema’s cousins.
Nishant, from Sullia, Dakshina Kannada, has started dreaming again. After an accident that left him with a spinal cord injury, “I was confined to bed for two years. It was painful to see my parents skip programmes and festivals in order to take care me,” he says. He then enrolled himself to Seva Dhama, and he now nurses an ambition to become a wheelchair motivator. His greatest strength? Getting back his independence. Tree climbers, farmers, construction workers among others in the hinterland who survive the fall with a spinal cord injury, eventually suffer a painful death. And the rehabilitation centre Seva Dhama in Southadka in Belthangady taluk in Dakshina Kannada has emerged as a hope for them and their families.
Seva Dhama, which celebrated its first anniversary recently, has already been hailed as a model centre among the four spinal cord injury rehabilitation centres operating across the state. It’s the brainchild of Vinayak Rao from Kanyadi, who himself is a wheelchair user. In 1996, Vinayak, 26, was electrocuted and paralysed waist-down due to the injury to his spinal cord. Within a few years of the accident, he got rid of his self-pity and launched Seva Bharathi in 2004 with an objective to transform his village into a model village, and help those in distress. In 2017, he enrolled for a 21-day course conducted by the rehabilitation unit of Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore for persons with spinal cord injury. Impressed with the centre’s initiatives to enhance the quality of life, he decided to mainstream bedridden people by launching a similar centre in Dakshina Kannada. It became a reality when The Association of People Disability India (APD) partnered with Seva Dhama.
Southadka Shri Mahaganapathi Temple committee magnanimously waived off their rent while permitting Seva Dhama to use the ground floor of the temple’s guest house as a rehabilitation centre for the next three years. Dr Senthil N S Kumar, serving as director (technical) in APD, says many persons with spinal cord injuries die without being rehabilitated. Without insurance, the hospital can’t offer help beyond a certain point.
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