Here is Rtn Joe Prakash who cares for the welfare of disabled persons to such an extent that he has inspired his club, RC Tuticorin, RID 3212, in solemnising the marriage of such couples. “My club extends full support for the newly weds to earn a decent income despite their physical limitations. We are ready to sponsor the marriage of 100 disabled couples,” says G P Joe Prakash, the club president. This service of the club has earned Rotary goodwill in this port city, in the southern part of Tamil Nadu.
Due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, the 42-member club was unable to do “meaningful projects since January 2021. Most of us are over 50, and have our own enterprises to look after. But it struck me out of the blue one day that people with disabilities are the worst affected in this corona wave, and we, as Rotarians, have to do something to alleviate their sufferings,” says Prakash. On Jan 24, the club solemnised the marriage of D Robert and P Jeya, which was followed by another wedding between A Vijayaraja and M Kanagavalli on Jan 27. The newly-wed couples have access to limited resources and struggle to make both ends meet as their deformity makes life very difficult for them, says Prakash. “While Robert is an automobile painter, though he does not have fingers, and has some income, Vijayaraja needs support from us. We helped him get an eight-gram gold mangal sutra. The club will provide all home essentials to the couples.”
The club lets out its Rotary Roach Victoria Hall free of charge to disabled persons to hold their programmes and weekly gatherings. Built in 1946 with major contribution from John Motha, a Major Donor, the hall is named after PDG J L P Roach Victoria. It was renovated for the third time recently at a cost of ₹12 lakh. Apart from holding club meetings, events, “the showpiece hall is let out for social events, weddings and anniversary galas for which we charge ₹24,000 a day inclusive of all charges,” says Prakash.
A social activist Durai Pandi is helping the club to plan and chart out programmes for the disabled and marginalised families. He is organising a mega one-day event to mark Women’s Day in which transgenders, disabled women and mothers of special children will participate in a day-long gala consisting of variety entertainment, dance and musicals. “We expect around 250 women to turn up for the programmes. Fifty disabled women, transgenders, and frontline corona warriors (women) will be honoured,” says Pandi.
The club members visit Little Sisters of the Poor, an old age home, and St Joseph’s Orphanage at Adaikalapuram village on the outskirts to distribute monthly rations and donate cash for their expenses. Prakash also heads 4–5 trade, sports bodies such as the All India Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Tuticorin chapter; Tuticorin SIPCOT Industries Association; the local Gymkhana club; and the district chess association. “Through the job portal at the trade chamber, we hire disabled people for industries such as fuel retail outlets and other contract jobs.”
With the club on its platinum jubilee year, Prakash, a Major Donor, is toying with the idea of holding a celebratory event. Having been in the logistics business for over 35 years, he says, “everyday I network with my Rotarians and business associates to offer job placements to the disabled, whose skillsets are yet to be tapped by industry bodies.”