True disability lies in the eyes of people who can’t see beyond physical appearance,” says Vishwas KS, who lost his arms in an accident when he was 10. “But, that did not stop me from becoming a para-swimming champion,” he adds. The 26-year-old swimmer from Bengaluru has won three medals at the 2016 Speedo Can Am Para-swimming championships held in Canada. He was one of the participants at a 2-km walkathon that was organised by RC Bangalore Orchards, D 3190, at Millers and Cunningham Road on the International Disability Day (Dec 3).
To make the walkathon more effective and let the message sink in deeper in the minds of the public, the club had arranged strategic points where the participants assembled with banners, speaking about caring for the disabled and how they are “not disabled, but differently-abled.” Rotary’s role in making India polio-free was also displayed at the venues.
While the differently-abled community is fighting hard for their basic rights, some of them are struggling to break free from the clutches of superstition, says Club President Aleemullah Khan. “In some rural regions they are even considered ‘cursed’. This is shocking and ridiculous. How can we explain to these people that disability has nothing to do with supernatural forces? Awareness is the only solution.”
Adds Vishwas, “Pity is hurtful. We want people around us to be more empathetic. Our physical disability does not entitle us to mere charity. We require support and encouragement to put our lives back in place. We want to be accepted.”
Khan adds that the walkathon, apart from creating awareness, has also helped in enhancing Rotary’s public image and is an extension of the End Polio initiative. “Even though India is officially certified Polio-free in March 2014, there are polio cases coming up in neighbouring countries and we need to sustain our fight against polio. We have sent out a powerful message that Rotary is sensitive to the needs of the differently-abled people and our main focus is to end polio that has crippled so many people in the world.”
The walkathon has received a big response in Bengaluru, “all thanks to our Public Image Director Naresh Nagraj who was instrumental in getting good mileage from print and electronic media.”
Cycle expedition to End Polio
In September, DG Asha Prasanna Kumar and Nobel Peace laureate Kailash Satyarthi flagged off a 20,000-km cycle expedition across India undertaken by Rotaractors Pavan and Bhagyashree of Rotaract Club of Bangalore Orchards. They are attempting a Guinness World Record while spreading awareness on Rotary’s End Polio and TEACH initiatives. Past president Kirit Morzaria drafted the route map and has also arranged a support vehicle, in association with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, to provide logistic support to the cyclists throughout the expedition. DG Asha has coordinated with 38 Rotary districts to provide support to the Rotaractors who are expected to complete the expedition by Mar 15.
“We are thankful to Rtn Sridharan MB from whom we received the first cheque of ₹1 lakh and thereafter many Rotarians have contributed to the cause,” says Khan. The club’s Youth Service Director Jay Pillai has provided space in his office to set up a control room and is coordinating with a team of Rotaractors to monitor the day-to-day developments of the expedition. The cyclists have covered over 6,000 km so far.