Walking for a cause more than 80 people will be participating in the 55-km walk organised by Ummeed in Goa to raise awareness about developmental disabilities, writes Vibha Singh
“As one person I cannot change the world,
But I can change the world of one person.”
Paul Shane Spear
Ahaan, 17-year-old scored 8.2 CGPA (77.9 percent) in Central Board of Secondary Exam in 2017. Good news is that after being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was nine. He has come a long way and is an independent young man with lots of grit and determination. This miracle happened with the support and guidance of professional trainers working at Ummeed. Set up in 2001 the goal of the NGO is to help children with developmental disabilities and those at risk for acquiring disabilities reach their maximum potential and integrate them in society.
Dr Vibha Krishnamurthy, founder and medical director of Ummeed, states, “More than generating funds this walk is about creating awareness as there are 52 million children in India with developmental disabilities which, includes an entire range of physical and mental disabilities, including Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, mental retardation, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and learning disabilities and out of this over 650,000 are in Mumbai alone. Not even a quarter have access to quality care. As there is only one developmental paediatrician per five lakhs children in India.”
It is about more than raising money
At present currently, children with these disabilities are often not diagnosed correctly. Without proper diagnosis or awareness on the part of the family or the larger society, these children often end up as outcasts, marginalised, and ultimately a burden on their helpless families because of lack of knowledge.
The aim of the walk is to inform and educate people about the different forms of disability and the services available at Ummeed. The first walk was held in 2012 with three walking enthusiasts. Over the last six years the walk has become the NGO’s flagship event for fund raising. The walkers walk up to 55 km in the course of one day. The walk starts at around 5.30 am while the stars are still shining. This first part of the walk is towards the northern end of the beach and back. This is followed by a lunch-break and some relaxation, after which walkers head towards the southern tip and back. This latter portion is often to the accompaniment of a glorious sunset, a nice breeze, and pleasant temperatures. One has the option to go for shorter walk options between 15-30 km.
Most of the walkers have been using the walk as an opportunity to reach out to their friends, family and acquaintances to donate funds for the NGOs in support of their participation in the walk. Ayaan, seven year old not only participated in the 55-km walk in 2017 but also convinced his classmates to donate.
One of the participants of the upcoming walk Hasina Kherodawala, “My belief is that no amount is too less or too much. I am going to walk 55 km in Goa. Working for the cause of children with developmental disabilities is very close to my heart.”
Unfortunately in India, only a handful of organizations offer services to children with developmental disabilities. This is primarily due to lack of resources and ignorance. “The value of the walks isn’t just about money raised. The walk generate publicity as people see that so many people are walking on the beach and they wonder what they’re supporting and if they should be doing the same,” says Krishnamurthy.
As in past few years, Ummeed, has grown much from a small clinic with big dreams aims to change the way we look at disabilities today. At present over 65 per cent of the therapy sessions are for children from low and middle-income families. Krishnamurthy says, “At present the NGO is providing specialised care for most developmental disabilities and has moved into areas of training, research and advocacy. To provide quality services we need to pay our professionals well. Also finding and keeping good professionals is a challenge. Thus there is a need for creating regular awareness among the people.”