On a unique and happy Sunday morning in December, RC Bharuch, RI District 3060, and R K Hospital, in partnership with several organisations in this Gujarat city, organised a walkathon for a group of 300 people. The title of the march was Chalo saath kadam badhae (Let’s walk together).
Asked about the objective of the event, club president Rizwana Talkin Zamindar said, “Mental health is RI President Gordon McInally’s preferred focus area this year. To be honest, I am a very grassroots person who has worked for long years with people in different areas who are facing challenges of different kinds. So when I became the president of my club this year, I decided to have such an event which would engage people and create positiveness, inclusiveness, empathy and mental wellness.”
Also, as club president, “my dream was to work with and for the physically-and mentally-challenged people, who I like to call ‘special people’. I also work with transgenders, though this event was more for persons with physical disabilities and elderly people.”
The event was a resounding success thanks to the partnership the club forged with several organisations in the area of health and fitness, education, and physically-challenged. The Indian Medical Association of Bharuch, Mansa Centre, Kalrav School, NAB, Seva Yagna Samiti, Human Welcare Foundation, Bharuch Cyclists, GJ16 Pedallers, Bharuch MTB Riders, Ankleshwar Runners & Women Runners, Bharuch Running Club and RC Bharuch Femina, all participated and helped bring in special people along with a saathi (companion) to either hold the hand of a blind person or push a wheelchair.
In all, 300 persons comprising Rotarians, volunteers from the partners and companions from some of the families of the elderly participated in the 1km walkathon, where even those on wheelchairs got medals after the event which lasted for one hour.
“The best part was that some fitness-conscious youngsters were very happy to bring their grandparents. They said we walk or jog daily, but they don’t get the opportunity to go out and enjoy the company of others. So this is the perfect opportunity for them. Some of them brought their grandparents on wheelchairs which they pushed,” said Rizwana.
Because of the health condition and age of many of participants, the Rotarians had thoughtfully organised several hydration points with water along the way, and an ambulance facility was also available, but luckily not required.
On how easy or difficult it was to get so much of participation, she said that even before her year as club president began, she had a complete planner ready for her club members, listing dates, events and venues. So they had time to mobilise people. “This was a first such rally in Bharuch, with the objective to create empathy and equality among all citizens through a sport activity like a special walkathon.” Participants included blind persons, homeless adults, elderly citizens above 70, mentally-challenged children and physically-disabled persons on wheelchairs, as well as citizens with prosthetic limbs.
At the end of the event each participant was given a medal. “It was overwhelming to see them receiving the finisher medals, as we found happy and beaming faces of the participants and their saathis, from the NGOs or Rotary, or their families, who had walked the steps along with them, supporting them to finish the walkathon.”
The response was happy faces, but the heartrending common question was: “When will you do such an event again and give us this kind of an opportunity?”
Will her club do it again? “Well, I don’t have another such event planned, but am certainly hoping that every year our club will repeat this event,” says Rizwana.
The walkathon was flagged off by R K Hospital trustees, both Rotarians, Pankaj Hariyani and Chirag Tambedia, and Menopause Society chair Dr Bhavna Sheth. The different government schemes that exist for the benefit of the physically and mentally challenged were explained to all the participants. Refreshments were served.
RYLA for the disabled
Rizwana added, that in September, she had organised a RYLA for two schools from Bharuch and Vadodara exclusively for the hearing and speech handicapped youngsters. “This RYLA, where we had 75 participants, was done in sign language with interpreters. Motivational speakers addressed them, and it was learning combined with fun activities such as engaging games, icebreakers, and other group activities, all in their sign language.”
Explaining the issues that engage these youngsters, she said, “they have so many concerns and face so many challenges and have questions about the opportunities that will be available to them after they finish their education.”
The single message the youngsters communicated to the organisers and the speakers who addressed them was this: Please carry out advocacy to create opportunities, facilities, suitable infrastructure and an enabling environment for us, so that we can lead a decent life. Also, create job opportunities for us. We too have skills; just give us a chance to show our creativity.