This Sunday 11 April was probably one of the most memorable days of my short stay in the valley as the Handimachal team held its monthly awareness camp in Manali, in the main playing ground of the Government Senior Secondary School. Our friend Raju monitored the organization of this event, with the help of his friend Ram Lal (also a handicapped man) and various local social workers: sticking posters in surrounding villages, distributing invitation letters to the usual local administration representatives (but they were busy…), giving information by telephone to various targeted families…
Mr Yamba, Mrs Leela (from Welfare Office), Amir Chand, Ravi, Kanica
Yuv Raj, Ram Lal and Raju are singing our song "Sunaa Loko" ("Listen people")
Representatives of local NGOs were also invited and all of them came: our friend Sudharshana Thakur, who is organizing the Radha orphanage sponsored by our association (she is also quite active in sensitization work towards local women), Mr and Mrs Maddan of the “Share” NGO who have been developing for more than twenty years various programmes in relation to medical help and public health information, Mr Sher Singh Yamba of the “Layul Tribal Welfare Association” who is running rehabilitation and special education programmes to a number of disabled children in the Manali area.
The principal of Manali Senior Secondary School, who was hosting this meeting, attended the whole event and gave a very informative speech on the necessity of preventing sickness and disabilities through adequate hygiene and medical care, balanced food, environment preservation, etc. We are most grateful to him.
Among other speakers, we were surprised to welcome one officer from Kullu Welfare Office who, this time, could answer positively our invitation: she did a very informative presentation on the various social schemes allocated to people with disabilities.
The audience (around 190 persons) was not that numerous considering the total population of this part of the valley, but we could meet around 40 children facing various impairments, which was the most important to us. Around 10 children are already following a physiotherapy treatment in the Mission Hospital in Manali thanks to a free rehabilitation programme run by the Layul Tribal Welfare Association and we advised them to continue on the same basis. A small group of children presenting mental retardation problems, including autism and Down's Syndrom, would greatly benefit of special educators and we advised their parents to contact the NAV-Chetna school in Kullu, although the absence of hostel facility in that school and the long distance between Manali and Kullu gives few hopes that they will pursue this opportunity. Mr Sher Singh Yamba took their contact details in order to try to include them into an additional programme under the SSA home-based special education scheme. It is obvious that a special education school is now a necessity in Manali.
Most parents discovered the benefits of physiotherapy for the first time from Kanica’s explanations and we advised them to visit the Handimachal Unit for a more detailed assessment of their children. Kanica’s agenda suddenly became very dense, with appointments and treatment proposals for 14 children – not sure they will all come, though at this date (21 April), first appointments have been honored…
All pictures taken during this event are available in the “Manali Camp” album on the French blog and I wish to thank our two main photographers, Tony and Emmanuelle, for such beautiful photographs which clearly testify of parents’ and children’s expectations. Our warm gratitude also goes to Hem Raj Thakur (our friend Raju) and also to his friend Ram Lal Thakur who, apart from helping in the preparation of the camp, also sponsored and actually prepared a cup of tea for each member of the audience! And to all the local social workers, friends and Handimachal team, thank you so much for making this day a successful one.
Raju: thank you so much!
This morning (12 April), in the cool and quiet atmosphere of the Handimachal blue house, 8 young patients came for their usual physiotherapy treatment. Needless to say that the 50 patients whom we are following on a more or less regular basis only represent the tip of that iceberg of medical and social isolation we wish to see melting – and don’t expect us to wait for the effects of global warming on local government institutions!
To view pictures: click here (on the French blog)
Dominique, 12 April 2010
(only 4 days left in the valley… well this is what I thought then !)