Need: Kashmiris With Disabilities have almost no help
Sami Wani got his training in physiotherapy, and returned home to Kashmir to begin his work. He first got a job with a clinic in the summer capital, Srinagar. He soon noticed that there were no children with disabilities coming to the city clinic from his home district of Ganderbal - only 35 km north of Srinagar. He knew there were children and adults with disabilities there. Why weren't they coming to the city for treatment?
Sami and his brother did a survey of the local people to find out. What they found was that either the people did not know that anything could be done to help, or they could not afford even the bus fare to get to the city and its clinics. Sami wanted to help the children and adults with disabilities outside the city, so he set about to figure out how to do this. He researched all the NGOs helping in this field that he could find on the Internet, and sent e-mails to all of them, asking for help. Only one replied. A small NGO from New Zealand, called MEND - Mobility Equipment for the Needs of Disabled. The founder of MEND was doing work in this part of the world, so made arrangements to meet Sami. He was convinced that Sami was serious about really helping Kashmiris with disabilities, so he told him to quit his job, start helping the local people in his district, and he would pay Sami's salary. That was in 1999. Sami began in a single rented room in his village, providing physiotherapy and special schooling to 3-5 children with disabilities. He gathered support anywhere he could find it - the police, the military, his family, and of course, MEND. And his work grew and spread in the remote mountain villages of Kashmir, where the most people with disabilities can hope for is a tiny monthly allowance from the government. No therapy, no rehabilitation. In 2005 Sami's father gave some land and helped Sami build the Hope Disability Centre. In 2008 the Hope Disability Centre was selected as a finalist in the BBC World Challenge. In 2009 Handicap International chose the Hope Disability Centre for a 12 month trial partnership.
I heard about Sami's work when I was in New Zealand, and came to volunteer in April, 2009 for 12 weeks. When the Handicap International project started, I returned - this time for a year. I am here until November 2010. If you would like to transform a life, and the family as well, a small donation goes a long way here. If you would like to join me as a volunteer, you could not find a more beautiful place, or friendlier people. Diane Emerson