14,000+ Differently-Abled People Helped & Counting: Meet The People Spreading Hope In Kashmir
“Anyone can come to my centre. There is no barrier of age, class, religion or colour. We all are humans and we all should serve humanity. We are equal.” – Sami Wani.
When HOPE came into existence
Sami Wani is a professional physiotherapist. In 2001, after training to be a physiotherapist at a college in Mangalore (India), he returned his home to Kashmir. Since childhood, Wani nurtured a deep desire to do something for the differently-abled, which eventually led him to sideline his career.
So the task was started in this way, one fine day Sami decided to take a tour to the local area and calculate the number of disabled persons. He was astonished to count 300 kids from mere five villages of his area who needed rehabilitation. “I was very upset after I observed 300 kids in just five villages. I spoke to my family, and they encouraged me and supported me,” said Sami Wani, the founder of She Hope Disability Centre, while talking to The Logical Indian. He added that it also helped me to identify what desired for and got a chance to make a difference.
It was at the initial stage when Wani started providing physical rehabilitation and special education to three to five children with disabilities from 12 by 12 single room in his hometown of Wayil in district Ganderbal, which is around 20 km from Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Every week he visits a new village with his fellows and tries to create the causes, prevention and treatment of disabilities.
“This experience has been an eye-opener, I was really pained to see the lack of awareness, especially among people in remote areas. Poverty and the high cost of treatment made things even more difficult for them,” said Wani.
Sami discerned that such occurrences were heart-wrenching to him and then he thought that something should be done for these disabled persons because they are also the part of our society. This caused the establishment of She Hope Disability Centre and is serving disabled and disadvantaged people and to women empowerment since 2001.
Sami recalled an incident where he went to a village in his hometown where he met a barber. He had two sons, and both of them were suffering from the congenital disability. When Sami Wani asked the parent to admit their sons to the hospital and get them treated, he told him, “My both sons have polio, and this diseases cannot be treated, It’s from Allah (God), I took my them to the saint as well but all in vain. So now how can you or doctors help them to get normal like others.”
Wani was determinant, he took both of his sons to the hospital and got them treated there. He frequently visited their home, and after the span of six months both the kids were fit and fine, walking around, roaming here and there of their own.
There is one more incident Wani shared with us, and it was about a girl in her teenage, who has not moved from that corner of her home since 18 long years, initially, her family denied about her deformity, because of the social norms and thoughts like what will people say? How will society treat their daughter? Who will marry their daughter?. Wani took the responsibility and persuaded her parents for treatment. Wani said, “We took the girl to the centre, there was no definition of talking with people, she would hardly talk for more than a week and would grip her head tightly between her legs because she was totally not exposed to people and environment respectively.” He further added that the girl was treated and after six to seven months the result was surprising. “She is not disabled anymore and is living a happy life with her husband and two sons,” Said Wani.
Appetite of serving and giving people a ray of ‘HOPE’
It has been 11 years, Sami Wani is running the She Hope Disability Centre, offering physiotherapy and corrective surgery, as well as hearing aids and low-cost prosthetic legs. The social stigma attached to disability, particularly among women and especially in rural areas, adds to the complexity of the problem. Wani recalls an incident where the villagers told him about a family with a deaf girl. “She was so beautiful. We approached her parents to help her, but they refused to admit her. Then, after a few days, her mother came to our centre for help.
She was very concerned that someone would learn about her daughter’s disability.”
Recognising the need to upgrade his centre’s infrastructure and facilities, Wani started pooling resources. With the help of his father, Ghulam Nabi Wani-who is a chairman of the non-profit organisation, provided land, he constructed a four-room building. He also hired two physiotherapists, an occupational therapist, a speech therapist and a driver.
Throughout the year, ‘She Hope’ conducts awareness campaigns and identifies people with disabilities. Surgery cases are identified and treated during the winter by the local government hospital. The centre then provides the required aids, oversees postoperative care and looks after the patient’s’ rehabilitation.
In the summer, the centre is converted into a special school for the disabled where every child is given individual attention and taught per his or her specific requirements. Deaf students are given speech therapy, and the blind are taught Braille, after which many children can join the normal schooling process. The non-profit organisation also admits mentally challenged students.
Today, Hope is a fully grown rehabilitation centre, providing prosthesis and orthosis support to persons whose limbs have got amputated because of accidents, armed conflict or congenital diseases.
“Since Kashmir is a conflict zone and one can find mainly three types of disabilities here which are; Natural Disability, mental disability and conflict disability respectively. In such case, there should be someone who will come forward and take the pain of such people, whom sometimes we do not prefer to look at,” said Wani in a very painful manner.
Promoting self-help, not sympathy
Living up to their mantra of “Promoting self-help, not sympathy” the centre runs a vocational program that provides training in practical arts and crafts like basket weaving, cutting and tailoring, with the aim of helping such people to become self-reliant.
“In some cases, it is really difficult for the patients to go back to school, especially when they have crossed a certain age, so we try to help them by teaching some skills,” says Wani. She Hope also offers them soft loans for setting up their own small businesses. Wani’s voice is joyful when he talks about a girl who opened a tailoring training centre of her own in her village.
Through rehabilitation and facilitating livelihood and awareness about welfare schemes to them, these physically challenged persons now live an independent and dignified life.
Since the journey of social work, Hope has provided physical rehabilitation services to 14,131 persons with disabilities (and 70655 indirect beneficiaries) across the state, with its trained and capable staff.
3216 persons have been given assistive devices such as a wheelchair, tricycle, crutches, toilet chair, hearing aids etc., to increase their mobility and community participation.
Prosthesis and Orthosis to 6554 persons, surgical care to 236 persons and 4055 have been trained on basic home based rehabilitation care, proper use and maintenance of aids and appliance. In addition, 265 persons have been given home adaptation service.
From 2009, Hope Disability Centre (HDC) along with Handicap International supported by European Commission Humanitarian Aid & Civil Protection (ECHO), reached more than 10,000 children and adults with disabilities to improve their quality of life through increased access to quality physical rehabilitation services in the chronic conflict affected region of Jammu and Kashmir.
The organisation is running other programs like; Skill Training for employment, Advocacy, Access & Human Rights, the creation of self-help groups, Shirkat –which means participation, where they aware people about disasters.
Wani Says, “Kashmir is a place which is considered as flood and earthquake-prone. In this regard, we organise workshops in which we aware people how to prevent themselves and their assets at the time of disaster.”
Due to will-power and enthusiasm, the organisation has now rehabilitation centres in every single district of Jammu & Kashmir.
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