A special challenge

LITTLE DID Periasamy of Kondayampatti near Thanichiyam in Madurai district anticipate the ordeals ahead, when his wife died leaving behind 30-year-old daughter Packiam.

It would not have bothered him much if Packiam had been like any other woman of her age. But, what pained him the most was her physical condition. She was a cerebral palsy patient.

It took Periasamy long to understand his daughter's plight. She was thoroughly dependent on him even for her daily routine. He thought of buying, at least, a wheel chair for his daughter, but his financial position deterred him.

After 10 years of struggle, he came to know about the Helen Keller Service Society for the Disabled (HKSSD), an NGO based in Madurai, and the Assistance to Disabled Persons (ADIP) scheme. He rushed to the office of the NGO and sought help.

As he did not have money to transport her daughter to the NGO office, he requested them to visit his place and have a first-hand knowledge. A team from HKSSD immediately rushed to Kondayampatti and provided a wheelchair to the ailing woman.

"Such experiences are not uncommon to the HKSSD. Though we are basically an NGO for the visually handicapped, we have been entrusted with the composite rehabilitation programme — the job of identifying the beneficiaries and distributing appliances," said A.Bakavathy, Executive Director, Helen Keller Service Society for the Disabled.

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment appointed five institutes — National Institute for the Visually Handicapped (NIVH), Dehradun, National Institute of Hearing Handicapped, Mumbai, National Institute of Orthopaedically Handicapped, Kolkata, National Institute of Mental Health, Secunderabad and Institute of Physically Handicapped, Delhi — as channellising agencies to carry out its development schemes. They preferred NGOs to Government agencies for an effective distribution of appliances.

Based on the performances of NGOs, the NIVH Regional Centre in Chennai appointed the HKSSD and the Cheran Service Society for the Disabled, Coimbatore as nodal agencies to carry out the job of distributing the appliances under the composite rehabilitation programmes.

"Impressed by our fieldwork, the NIVH appointed the HKSSD as the nodal agency under the ADIP scheme," said Mrs.Bakavathy.

Through the NIVH Regional Centre, Chennai, the HKSSD had received supplies worth Rs.50 lakhs for the past six months. "Our association with the HKSSD is three years old. We have had good experience with them. They came to us for their eye camps," Mani, superintendent, NIVH Regional Centre, Chennai, said over phone.

Having received the NIVH recognition, the HKSSD, with its strong network of NGOs in Madurai, Sivaganga, Ramanathapuram, Dindigul, Theni, Virudhunagar and Tirunelveli districts, began their mission.

"For the past six months, we have distributed 350 three wheelers, 143 wheel chairs, 183 crutches and 1465 hearing aids," said Mrs. Bakavathy.

A special challenge

"After getting the appliances, we write to NGOs, village panchayat presidents and village administrative officers asking them to identify the disabled persons in their area. We also get a list from the District Rehabilitation Officer. Then, we prioritise the beneficiaries. Our priority is for those, who have not received appliances so far" she said.

"We, then, start our screening process. We give preference to the candidates from villages, as our prime aim is to identify people with less opportunities," said Mrs.Bakavathy.

"In our screening camp, we have our own trained doctors to decide on the percentage of disability. We also provide counselling to the handicapped people, who did not get the desired appliance. After short-listing the deserving candidates, we provide them with an outpass. On the distribution day, we invite the Collector, the District Rehabilitation Officer and the NIVH representative," she said.

"The only condition is that the monthly income of the candidate or his or her family should not exceed Rs.5000. If the income ranges between Rs.5000 and Rs.8000, then the candidate should bear 50 per cent of the cost of the equipment," explained Mrs. Bakavathy.

"So far we have conducted eight camps in four districts — five in Madurai, one each in Sivaganga, Ramanathapuram, Virudhunagar. We have planned to conduct a hearing aids camp in Virudhunagar district on September 27 and another one in Manamadurai in Sivaganga district on September 30," she said.

"Though we distribute pamphlets, besides publicising the camp via various media, we receive more number of enquiries only after the camp, which make our job much more complicated. To cater for those people, we have organised another camp at the same place," pointed out Mrs.Bakavathy.

"To prevent any wrong issuance of appliances, we have obtained permission from the district administration to endorse the issue in the identity cards of the handicapped people," said Mrs.Bakavathy.

"We have been asked by the NIVH to do this service in other districts also, but at present, with the existing workforce, it will be difficult for us to entertain the offer, though, we are thinking of extending our field of operation, particularly in this service," she said.

"We have asked every beneficiary to post their feedback to the NIVH and to us. So far, we have received encouraging feed back," said Mrs. Bakavathy.

Just into the first year of this scheme, the exemplary work, done by the Helen Keller Service Society for the Disabled in distributing the appliances, is widely appreciated by the public

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