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  • : The Handimachal Programme for disabled children, Kullu, India
  • The Handimachal Programme for disabled children, Kullu, India
  • : In the (blue) House of the Himalayas, in Kullu (Himachal Pradesh, India), discover and follow the progress of the Handimachal project for disabled children.
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April 22 2012 1 22 /04 /April /2012 15:38

My last days in the Handimachal Unit have come far sooner then I imagined. The last few weeks have been a time of change and growth for the Unit and the increased numbers of children attending have kept our days busy. We welcomed our permanent OT Shruti and the next OT volunteer Alycia, arrived on Thursday. We have also welcomed Vikash as a temporary team member whilst our regularly Physio Mayur is busy getting married! This had added new dimensions to our team and filled our Unit with new ideas and voices. Having an Indian (and Hindi speaking) OT in the team offers so much more opportunity to have the discussions and interactions with kids and their families that I could only dream of having. Ultimately, it would be wonderful to see a wholly Indian team running the project but fresh ideas from overseas volunteers provide much needed energy and current, best practice.

This week I have been able to reflect on my time here and have been pleasantly surprised by the improvements and changes in some of the children that I have had the pleasure of working with. One young boy Christelle and I have been working with together is Karan. Karan spent his first two sessions at Handimachal inconsolable in his mother’s arms. Gradually he got into the swing, we were lucky enough to get some smiles and on the 5th visit, he was independently exploring some toys around him for the first time. He even joined in a game of passing a ball with Christelle and I! Karan has been a great example of ‘slowly, slowly’ and gentle persistence by the therapists and his mother. These small successes remind me of why I love being an OT and working within an energetic team. 

My time in Handimachal and living in Kullu have been both challenging and rewarding, I will keep fond memories of the people I have met and the children and families I have worked with. I hope to return to the valley one day soon – when the apples are out and the sun shines everyday!


Siobhan O’Connor

Occupational Therapist

21st April, 2012




Siobhan O'Connor's farewell party,
gathering some of our young patients and their families

Thank you so much Siobhan for your valuable contribution to our project!


And yes, the attendance by children and families was quite extraordinary this week:  12 young patients on Tuesday, 9 on Wednesday, 16 on Friday (!), 8 on Saturday, without forgetting 6 children during home-visits in Naggar on Thursday and 9 children assessed and treated in Manali in the previous week - yes indeed, things seem to be changing at the moment, which means it is also time for us to increase our services both in Kullu and in Manali!




And now a few words from Christelle (French volunteer for adapted physical activities)



It’s been more than one month and a half already since I reached Kullu (how time flies by!):  more and more children visit the Handimachal Unit for their respective rehabilitation programmes.  My role is to involve some of these children in adapted physical activities (APA).

The purpose of APA and sports in the Handimachal Unit is to reveal the child’s capabilities instead of focussing on his or her impairments.  APA programmes are not designed to bring a sports challenge to the child but as a mean to motivate the child to move in space and use his or her body in order to better know his/her capabilities. By creating a playful and pleasant atmosphere and by using whatever equipment available in the Unit (balls, balloons, gymball and various games), I encourage the child to discover his/her body by motivating natural movements he or she would not dare to do in everyday life.

Therapeutic treatments are mainly carried out individually but I try to work in close cooperation with our occupational therapists and whenever possible with two or three children at the same time.  I consider that group dynamics is important and plays an essential role in the development and socialization of the child, by allowing him to interact with others.

One challenge in my work is that I very often have to use my improvisation, adaptation and creativity skills – but playing and having fun with the kid is sufficient to bring happiness to both of us !


APA1.jpg APA2.jpg  APA3.jpg


A typical example of APA therapy, with Abhishek, a 10 year old boy with a severe locomotor disability:  Abhishek presents a high degree of muscular dystrophy but he can understand everything.  During sessions with Abhishek, I try to provoke him to do voluntary moves, using simple verbal commands such as requesting him to hit the ball close to him.  And in spite of his joint and muscular stiffness, Abhishek shows quite a good response and activity.

Christelle Pettazzi



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