The Spiti Valley is a desert mountain high altitude valley located in the Himalayan ranges in the north-eastern part of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The name "Spiti" means "the Middle Land", i.e. the land between Tibet and India.
When our Spitian neighbors called out to us to help them raise a disability right movement, we had to go! As the old saying goes, “The land is so barren and the passes so high that only our fiercest enemies or our best friends would want to visit us”.
Ishita Khanna, from Spiti Ecosphere made contact with Dominique to discuss the idea followed by Michael Heckenberg, a volunteer at Spiti Ecosphere who visited our Kullu Center earlier in the year. He spent a few days getting to know our work in Kullu valley and discussing ideas of initiating work in Spiti Valley for people with disabilities. It was not surprising to know that there wasn’t any attention given to the disability sector in Spiti. Superstitions, stigma, ignorance and absence of services was the background in which people with disabilities were left on their own.
A plan was made to conduct a 3 day camp with an agenda of raising awareness, education and sensitization of the community towards disability issues.
Shruti More, Occupational Therapist made the bumpy and treacherous but with amazing views, trip to Kaza in October. Being back from Florida, USA, just a few days back, after presenting a poster at the international CP conferences, and now initiating a disability movement in the rural mountains – quite a special jet lag she had to cope with.
On day 1, and awareness, educative and sensitization workshop was organized for government officials, doctors, school teachers, Aganwadi workers, social workers, Chomus (nuns) and monks from Gompas (Buddhist monasteries) and people from the community. About 40 people attended the workshop.
The aim was to initiate a discussion on disability issues just to get people thinking, without judging any pre-convinced notion a community may have built around disability. A general informative session on disability, it causes and its management, was conducted. The work been done in Kullu valley by Handimachal was discussed as a model which can be emulated.
The various possibilities for Spiti valley were discussed in details with an intention to make the community confident that, however difficult the situation may be, things can be done.
The first day workshop was very well received by the people and especially by the Government officials and representatives of NGOs.
Day 2 and day 3 were kept to interact with parents and children who were identified by a preliminary survey conducted by Ecosphere. A session was conducted for the parents to educate them about disability issues and management models, and show them other models of care which are been used by other parents and organization to take better care of children with disabilities.
The session was translated by a government school teacher, Cheering Gatuk, in local language. Cheeing Gatuk was the community catalyst who could work in the capacity of a community-based rehabilitation worker.
About 28 children were assessed. Cerebral palsy, mental retardation, spinal deformity, visual impairment, speech impairments were some of the cases assessed. It was proposed to some parents to bring their children to Kullu for further treatment.
A post-camp meeting was held to discuss the necessary follow-up actions. The district administration and the representatives of the local NGO in Spiti were impressed with the work Handimachal has done and wanted to take the first step in the direction of providing support to people with disabilities. A request was made to Handimachal to conduct training on the model of community-based rehabilitation (CBR) for some locals from Spiti.
It was a successful camp and Handimachal once again flew a banner where there was none!
(well, at least, not a banner of this kind)
write a comment