The human spirit has the power to soar over adversity with will, using perseverance, endurance and courage to triumph over the odds. It challenges the abled and motivates the disabled.
On February 23, the spirit of over 100 disabled people in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu, were ignited to motivate them during the ‘Walk India’ campaign. The initiative was organised by Freedom Trust—led by Dr S Sunder, a post-graduate in the field of rehabilitation—in association with CavinKare India Pvt Ltd.
When he started the NGO in 1989, little did Sunder know when he accompanied some doctors to a disability assessment camp near Kodaikanal that he would spend the remaining two decades to extend his service to the disabled. Started in 2016, the Walk India campaign has helped over 300 amputees in Erode, Kanchipuram and Krishnagiri.
The camp works through a series of organised preparatory phases to deliver artificial limbs to the amputees. Campaign volunteers venture into the three chosen districts to identify eligible candidates. However, identification is just the basic step, followed by rounds of counselling since most of them are apprehensive about using an artificial limb.
The volunteers then organise health camps where the amputees give measurements to customise the products rather than getting something off the shelf. Now, at 58 years of age, Sunder has been honoured with the President’s Award for service to the disabled among many other recognitions and laurels.
“During the various camps, I realised that there were many persons with amputation who were unable to walk because they had not been fitted with artificial limbs or their limbs had become worn out,” he says, adding that with Walk India he is on a mission to make all the amputees in India walk.
The programme operates a van specially fitted with the necessary equipment to tour the villages and take measurements for artificial limbs, which are then given to amputees for free.
Though the Freedom Trust was founded two decades ago, with previous partnerships and collaborations, Sunder was able to give wings to the Walk India campaign only a year-and-a-half ago. With CavinKare coming forward to extend its support, and helped by corporate partnerships, he is determined to fulfil his mission.
During the course of his journey to the camps, Sunder has met recipients aged between five and eighty-five. The amputees who attend the camps need not produce any kind of certificates related to income or community, and no cap is fixed on the number of recipients either.The good doctor realises that in the interior areas of the districts, disability is treated in such a primitive and ignorant manner, raising questions whether the multi-specialty hospitals that have mushroomed in cities and towns are doing justice to those who actually need treatment. Though every camp has patients pouring in, the one held between Madurai and Theni so far recorded the maximum number of disabled—315 amputees in a single day. Sunder says, “It is a paradox that while there are many service centres that cater to phones and electronic devices, there are none for artificial limbs.”
Today, at least one camp is organised every month as opposed to the 10 to 15 camps held yearly in the initial days of Walk India. Sunder is helped by volunteers who spread awareness with the support of local NGOs. Sunder can be proud that he has helped many find their feet, though the movement has quite a long distance left to cover.