According to the World Health Organization, as much as 10 percent of the Indian population may suffer from some kind of disability. Immunization of babies and toddlers does take place, but it is mostly restricted to the educated and well-to-do segments of society. In spite of a government-sponsored immunization program, poor and ignorant families often fail to have their children inoculated. In the villages, we find that many children have not been immunized; a number of them have not received the full dose of the required vaccines. As a result, the incidence of polio among children remains high. Due to the “dowry” problem, moreover, marriages between close blood relatives are frequent, leading to high numbers of mentally retarded children with related physical disabilities. Given the large number of physically and mentally handicapped in and around Vijayawada and the endemic lack of appropriate medical facilities, there is urgent need to provide for their care and treatment. Many of them live in utter neglect. They are denied the most basic rights - above all the right to an education.
Our sponsorship program serves many disabled children. We attempt to shelter the more serious and destitute cases in a home. Since 1995, moreover, we have been regularly engaged in the identification, care, and rehabilitation of children suffering from polio and other disabilities in the surrounding villages. In many occasions, we have also treated and operated on severe burn victims, who where thus returned to a normal life.
Homes for the Handicapped
To take care of physically and mentally handicapped children, in 1995 we established Navajeevan (New Life) at Edara, a village about 40 kms from Vijayawada. 40 children were sheltered in the Home. We supported this temporary two-room structure until 1998. More recently, we have begun supporting Asha Jyothi, a home for the handicapped at Hanuman Junction.
We have now built a new home for the handicapped on the premises of Daddy's Home. Angel Home is a two-storey structure that can comfortably accommodate as many as 60 handicapped children.
Helen Keller Government Home
Many of the disabled children we serve live in the Helen Keller Government Home for the Differently Abled. The large two-storey colonial building can house as many as 100 children, though only 45 presently live in the home. We seek to find sponsors for all the children who are currently residing there and for other disabled children who could benefit from living on the premises. Upon the request of the local government, we are entirely managing the Home - providing for all of the children's needs 24 hours a day. With your help, we will greatly improve the quality of life of these children, whose misery is so often aggravated by ostracism and neglect.
ASHA KIRAN was established as a local workshop for the manufacture of plastic calipers and other orthotic appliances. Asha Kiran means "Rays of Hope." From the start, we have hoped that our intervention would really bring hope into the lives of many handicapped children and give them new dignity and self-worth. We made a humble beginning in November 1996, with the recruitment of a Technician and the setting up of the Workshop in a garage. We rented a room in town and purchased some of the basic equipment.
Calipers and prostheses are manufactured with technology developed by Rehabilitation of the Disabled in India (RDI) and Handicap International, making use of ordinary domestic plastic materials. We use rigid plastic, generally utilized in the manufacture of drain pipes, and Polypropylene - a flexible plastic-like material ideal for the manufacture of furniture and containers. These plastics are malleable when heated and can be shaped on wooden moulds for feet or legs. These materials make light-weight, washable calipers that are solid and strong. They can also be made in a very short time and are very cheap to produce. An additional advantage is that with these calipers ordinary sandals or shoes are used instead of orthopedic leather shoes. This makes the caliper very comfortable to wear. Without removing the plastic caliper, the children can easily sit on the floor and to go to the toilet.
ASHA KIRAN has been set up to serve the poor rural handicapped children. 90% of the children we cater to are unable to bear the cost of the calipers, which children generally need to have replaced every 6 to 8 months. Our CBR (Community Based Rehabilitation) program identifies polio affected children in the villages, assesses their condition, fits them with calipers, or arranges for surgery and physiotherapy. Families are taught simple physiotherapy techniques and are trained to help their handicapped children. During the past years, Asha Kiran has screened 3998 cases and provided over 1824 calipers, 226 pairs of crutches, 404 prosthesis, 53 tricycles, 15 surgeries, 34 wheel chairs and 609 other appliances. It has also extended its services to the neighbouring districts of West Godavari, Nellore and Cuddapah.