Sector: Community Based Rehabilitation
For many of us, good health is something we have taken for
granted. But for a young man in the village of Kasba Nirvana, health has
become a medium to reach disadvantaged people. He transformed his own
disadvantage not only for his own betterment, but for the betterment of
all differently-abled people. Up until the 9th standard, Rinku was just
like every other teenager. He attended school and played sports with his
friends. However, in the 9th standard Rinku started having severe pain
in his legs. His parents took him to a hospital and Rinku received treatment.
Despite intervention, the illness started to increase. One day his body
could take no more and he collapsed on his bed. After days of being confined
to the bed, Rinku’s parents started losing hope that he would recover
from the illness and be able to walk again. Because Rinku was bed-ridden,
he started losing his support system since he could no longer go to school
or play with his friends. Eventually, Rinku’s illness left him physically
challenged and contained in his room. He also had to deal with the psychological
effects of going from an active lifestyle to one of complete dependence
After one week at CORD, Rinku continued his therapy at home. He worked with CORD’s field workers regularly to improve his condition. In due time, Rinku’s mother learned the rehabilitation exercises from the CORD workers and began doing them with Rinku. Rinku never forgot about CORD. After putting in a lot of hard work, one day Rinku surprised Dr. Didi when he walked into CORD with only the support of a walker. Finally, Rinku could stand by himself.
Rinku faced yet another challenge when he started experiencing hip joint problems. CORD used its network with Christian Medical College in Ludhiana to perform flexor release surgery for Rinku. The funding for this surgery came from loans from local Self-Help Groups and CORD. With hard work after the sugery, Rinku shifted from a walker to crutches and then to a single crutch. This physical transformation reflected an inner transformation taking place within Rinku. With each step, he gained more confidence and slowly became less frustrated with his situation. He once did not like to leave his room, but now he felt he could approach and befriend strangers. Throughout his difficulties, his village always supported him. CORD even started a Self-Help Group around him in his village where he was a member. CORD also encouraged him to start a business of his own. Rinku took full advantage of this opportunity and opened a small tea stall so he could become self-sufficient. He was extremely proud of his accomplishments and felt he was in a position to help others.
Rinku became very active in Chinmaya Umang, a forum formed by families of the differently-abled. He also had the opportunity to attend and present at a national level workshop on disabilities. As he was giving his presentation about his disability at the workshop, he became motivated and was filled with enthusiasm at the prospect of helping others who were in a similar situation as him. Although his legs were not strong, his heart and his mind were stronger than ever. If only he could channel his motivation in the right direction.
He then thought about Dr. Didi and the work at CORD. He decided that he could help Chinmaya Umang bring about positive changes. When there was a vacancy for the position of president at Chinmaya Umang, Rinku knew that this was his calling. He won the election and became the group’s president. Rinku’s vibrant leadership has created a friendly and productive atmosphere. As president, he fights for the rights of disabled people and educates the public on disability issues. Rinku wanted to spare others the frustration and hardship of dealing with a system that neglects the differently-abled. He helps educate other disabled people who are not aware of their rights. He also takes legal action by bringing up issues of the disabled in the political arena. Rinku and other differently-abled individuals are not asking for special treatment; they are only asking for the necessary accommodations so that they can be integrated into society. With the help of CORD, Rinku was able to obtain his disability certificate, a free bus pass, pension, etc. Rinku also got involved at the local level by networking with Mahila Mandals, Self-Help Groups, and Youth Clubs.
Currently, Rinku is an active member of society. He used to commute to CORD via a CORD vehicle; however, now he takes local buses. He has formed a youth club in his village and he even attends Gram Sabhas (public meetings of the local governing bodies) so that he can represent the differently-abled in his village forum. He goes from village to village mobilizing resource persons. These people come to CORD and are educated on the issues facing the differently-abled. They then share this information with their local villages.
Rinku feels that he now has his own identity and can be an example for other differently-abled people in his community. This once broken down boy can now keep his head up and be an inspiration for others.
Sector: Pudiya Bharatham Mahila Mandal, Sivanvoyal – CORD Thamaripakkam
“Since I joined the MM I have learnt many skills like making incense, pain balm, jewelry and snacks and these add to my income.From being a shy woman, I have grown to a leader of my Mahila Mandal, not hesitant to meet with officials and express the needs of our community.
(Chinmaya Vivekanandar FC), Velliyur- CORD Thamaraipakkam
Before CORD, I was unaware of the government subsidies for farming and did not know any resources who could guide me in agriculture.
CBR beneficiary, Athupakkam, CORD-Thamaripakkam
I was diagnosed with severe muscular dystrophy at the age of 15 and was confined to my home.
Chandrika SHG group, Bhagat Tola, Birkera Panchayat, - CORD Lathikata
“We did not know what is good for our life. Nobody came forward to help us in crisis. We were suffering a lot, not getting financial support at the time of fulfilling our basic need. We had no access to manage the financial need arising frequently. In our village those few who have money, when they are approached,they demand land on contract in exchange of money and average family have very little cultivated land, when that is taken away the family lives sometimes on starvation.
In the meanwhile, it is God’s Blessings that Pramod Bhai of CORD came to us regularly and repeatedly called us for meeting and explained the benefits of forming SHG. Swamiji also motivated and inspired us to form the group through satsang making us aware on different important issues of life and showing many dreams to alleviate our sorrows and poverty. At last we formed a SHG and collected rupees ten as monthly subscription. Due to constant inspiration and regular meeting conducted by Pramod Bhai, we started jointly a small initiative of rice processing, we took loan for cultivation, received subsidised loan from bank, which gave us courage and confidence to live better way.
Subsequently we increased the monthly subscription from Rs.10 a monthly to Rs.20/- then Rs.30/-.Slowly we accumulated our group capital. We also increased the group capital working together for others charging Rs/-1500 per day. My husband took loan from group and purchased an Omini Van which earns Rs 4000/- to 5000/- per month and one member of our group has made a pond for agriculture and fishery.
Now on the way we have accumulated Rs 1,65,000/- as our group capital. There is no outstanding loan against the group to repay. Our internal financial transaction of micro bank is update, transparent and accountable. The basic financial needs of group members are met successfully like buying medicine, taking pregnant women to hospital, buying books for school going children, repairing the house, repaying the loan, or purchasing plough and bullock etc.Now we are being slowly educated by Swamiji of how to shift our focus to resolve the important social issues of our village like sanitation, health, hygiene, education, environment, plantation, functioning of Anganwadi, village primary school, attending Palli sabha, Gram sabha etc which has given us a broader perception to look at the world in a new way.
Sector: Village Enhancement Through Spirituality
Spirituality was never important to the people of Nichli Lambagaon village. Instead, the villagers were caught up in the differences of humanity such as caste. This led to segregation keeping the community in disharmony. People did not take ownership of the land and as a result the physical beauty of the village slowly deteriorated. Trash was thrown everywhere including in front of venerated places such as the local temple of Kodgir Baba. No one ever visited the temple and it remained neglected, a visual reminder of what people were feeling in their hearts. The youth also had no regard for spirituality; they used to roam around the temple as if it were a playground, and had no interest in learning about the deep spiritual meanings that lay hidden inside.
Transformation soon arrived as a teacher who once worked for CORD, Mr. Soni, saw the social conditions of the village. Although Mr. Soni left CORD for a government job, he was inspired by the spiritual thread running through the organization and continued to do the work of CORD. He believed in the villagers and knew that by linking them with CORD they could rediscover their lost potential. He led by example and began picking up every piece of garbage by hand that cluttered the village and temple. Although a quiet leader, his actions reached the hearts and minds of the people. With only a wet cloth he spent hours cleaning the inside of the temple and then maintained it regularly. The villagers noticed this hardworking, simple man who did not even live in their village and yet still dedicated his time. Puzzled by his actions, one day they decided to ask him what he was doing. Mr. Soni said that he was only doing his duty. Impressed by his response, the older people in the village joined him with a smile in keeping the temple and village clean.
The youth were moved by the fact that the elders of the village were picking up garbage which many of them had recklessly created. They felt ashamed and embarrassed of their behavior and quickly joined the silent revolution that was taking place. They took ownership of their village and the very land that they abused felt more and more like a home they could be proud of. If they wanted a better village they would have to do it themselves; they could not wait around for the government or others to do it. The youth enthusiastically volunteered to help build roads and bowries (a spring used for drinking water), anything they could do to improve the condition of their village. The teacher also started performing daily rituals such as aarti in the morning and the evening. The youth used to roam here and there, and had previously never cared about values or rituals. To them, the rituals were just words from ancient texts that had nothing to do with their lives. They were tired of repeating mantras like mindless parrots. However, as they saw Mr. Soni performing the rituals with such faith and regularity, they were curious to learn more. Eventually, they joined Mr. Soni but still had questions like: how are ancient texts relevant to us and how can spirituality be incorporated into our daily lives? Searching for these answers, they went from home to home talking to each other about spirituality (known as prabhat ferry), and spreading Gurudev’s message to the youth. Not only did this build a sense of community among the youth, but it encouraged them to do something more. The temple was not just a place of worship; it became a community center where the youth could attend tuition classes in the evenings with Mr. Soni.
Spirituality was just one among many issues that they wanted to discuss. However, they were lacking the forum to address such issues. Mr. Soni, sensing the youth’s drive to do something more, told the kids about CORD and Dr. Didi. He also told the youth about CORD’s many programs like Yuva Mandal. The youth started a Yuva Mandal of their own called Chinmaya Yuva Prerna. The youth demonstrated Gurudev’s belief that the “Youth are not useless, but they are used less.”
The positive impact that Mr. Soni had spread to the women of the village, who formed their own Mahila Mandal group with the help of CORD. Mr. Soni’s simple action created a domino effect. Even surrounding villages were inspired and started cleaning their roads and temples. Religious festivals were no longer ‘just another day’ but were often celebrated on a grand scale. The villagers felt invigorated and were inspired to carry on their work while upholding spiritual principles.
This dull, dirty village made a complete transformation into a vibrant, spiritual community. This transformation was marked by a large festival on October 15th, 2006, where Swami Subodhananda from Tapovan Ashram and Dr. Kshama graced the event. Villagers from surrounding Mahila Mandals (Women’s groups) and Self-Help Groups were mobilized by Vijaya, a CORD worker, to attend the event. The women even had the opportunity to sell some of their income-generating products. After that event, many of the villagers who had attended were so moved by Swamiji’s words that they quit smoking and drinking. Other prabhat ferries that had lost vigor, such as in the block of Indorra, were revived. Lambagaon village has joined the Chinmaya family and is now known as Chinmaya Sanatan. The villagers maintain their close relationship with CORD and continue to make spiritual progress.
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