A treat for the disabled

It was Children’s Day 2000. Some members of Rotary Club of Burdwan South, RID 3240, were attending the celebrations of the day in a school. Children were dancing, singing and taking part in various activities. The joy on their faces touched the hearts of the Rotarians present. An idea also sparked in one of their minds. Why don’t we have a similar celebration for the differently-abled children.

Wheelchair participants at the Parathon.

The idea was placed in the weekly meeting and it was unanimously accepted. December 3, International Disability Day, was chosen, and we zeroed in on Aurobinda Bhawan in Burdwan, West Bengal, as the venue. Formal permission from the police, sub-divisional officer and the municipality was taken. That time there were only two schools for special children and these children were invited. Eighty children came along with their parents and teachers. We told the parents and teachers to allow the children to do whatever they like on the small ground at the venue. Some children started hopping, few danced, and few others ran in circles. We then provided them art paper and colour pencils. They scratched and scribbled. They remained busy through the two hours of the programme. We gave them gifts and served lunch for everyone. The parents and teachers were overwhelmed and requested us to arrange the programme the next year too.

The Parathon event aimed to give better exposure to the public of the challenges faced by the disabled and promote respect for them in the society.

So we continued the programme year after year. The number of participants increased with each passing year. We managed to arrange some grant from the Sarva Siksha Mission of the West Bengal government. After 2004 we had to look for an alternate place to accommodate the growing number of children and we identified the Krishna Sayar Eco Park which was located in the University of Burdwan campus. The park surrounds a huge lake and is lush green. We got permission from the university authorities to use the park for our festivities.

Differently-abled children participating in a dance programme.

From 2005 until now, the Krishna Sayar Eco Park has become the unanimous choice for the celebrations of December 3. Children come to the venue at 8am, accompanied by their teachers and parents. We serve them breakfast and lunch after which they go back.

We organise drawing competitions and the children showcase their creativity with vibrant colours. For the next couple of hours, they display their skills in dancing, singing, reciting poems, and a fashion parade is also held.

A painting session in progress.

We have had the district magistrate, superintendent of police, university dean, DG and PDGs as guests for the programme every year.

This year around 400 children participated with their teachers and parents. Lunch was served to around 700 people. All expenses are borne by the club.

In 2022, one of our new members suggested that we conduct a short marathon for the physically-challenged. The idea was well supported and we designed an ‘On the Road’ 1km walk, calling it ‘Parathon’. The first Parathon was conducted in December 2023 and we saw an enthusiastic participation of 102 people using orthosis, prosthesis, crutches, tricycle or wheelchair.

The event aimed to give better exposure to the public of the challenges faced by the disabled and promote respect for them in the community. We organised the Parathon on a Sunday winter morning, considering the weather and lean traffic.

Disabled people with crutches at the Parathon.

Disabled people from outside Burdwan also participated in the Parathon, and we arranged overnight accommodation for them. Nutritious food was provided to everyone and they were allowed to participate after a medical checkup and verifying the fitness of their supporting equipment. Every participant was given a uniform and a cap for easy identification. The entire route was under the strict supervision of the police and Rotarian volunteers. An ambulance and a medical team were ready to handle emergencies. The participants were recognised with certificates and medals.

The second episode of Parathon was done in January this year. We are now confident of organising this event every year.

 

The writer is a member of RC Burdwan South, RID 3240

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