From overcoming disabilities to reuniting lost children–our top social stories of the week

In our Catalysts of Hope series, we bring you uplifting, inspiring and impactful stories of change.

From overcoming disabilities to reuniting lost children–our top social stories of the week

Saturday September 16, 2023,

5 min Read

Kantaraj Naik was 24 years old when he fell off an areca palm tree. This incident left him paralysed from the waist down. After spending a year in and out of the hospital, Naik was left confined to his house.

He was depressed but he never lost hope and kept searching for solutions. In 2022, he discovered that the Association of People with Disability (APD), an NGO based in Bengaluru, runs programmes in rural and urban Karnataka to enable, equip, and empower children and adults with a range of disabilities.

Initially, Naik started with a three-month training rehabilitation course wherein he learned how to function with the help of a wheelchair, navigate up and down a ramp, wash clothes, eat, go to the restroom, and travel by scooter. Later, he also developed an interest in sports like badminton, basketball, para climbing, and canoeing. He also won the National Para Climbing Cup in Bengaluru in 2022.

Now, on weekends, Naik also works as a delivery partner for Zomato. He is the first disabled person from Bengaluru to work for the company. 

Read more about his inspiring journey here.

Reuniting the lost

Nayab was 10 years old when he lost his way home and was found near the platform of Basti Railway Station in Uttar Pradesh by a local NGO. 

Like him, 730 lost children in Varanasi have been reunited with their families under Mission Muskaan. The initiative was started in July 2022 by the Chief Development Officer of Varanasi, Himanshu Nagpal.

“Mission Muskaan’s objective is to reunite lost children found in Varanasi’s ghats, railway stations, and temples with their families across India. It is my personal commitment to assist these children and bring smiles to both their faces and the faces of their families,” Nagpal tells SocialStory.

Nagpal has 12 teams comprising 60 officers from different departments such as Child Development, police and others. These teams visit railway and bus stations, flyovers, ghats, circles, and temples to identify and rescue children. 

Until the children are reunited with their families, they are housed in child welfare homes where they are provided with education, food, and shelter. Additionally, they are also engaged in morning yoga classes, sports activities, and crafts and paintings. 

Empowering the specially-abled

After Sonali Saini completed her master’s in special education and worked in a school for children with special needs, she realised there were many gaps in how education for children with disabilities was understood and implemented.

This led her to start Sol’s ARC in Mumbai to work directly with children and young adults with special learning and psycho-social needs. It started offering direct therapy and education intervention for these children.

The organisation also works with vulnerable young adults, their parents, government and national institutes, NGOs, Sector Councils, and industry to provide employment opportunities in the retail and hospitality industry. So far, 53 young adults have been placed in Amazon, and a new batch of 150 people is undergoing training

Creating bright future

After losing her father in 2016, Portia Putatunda, a former journalist, was left devastated. She shared a deep-rooted passion for helping people with her departed father who was dedicated to providing for underprivileged children and firmly believed in the transformative power of education. This led her to leave her profession and start a boarding school in Komic. Situated at 15,500 feet in Himachal Pradesh, Komic is said to be the world’s highest village with a motorable road.

The boarding school works towards the holistic development of the students. The initiative provides free education and stationery, school bags, uniforms, shoes, and comfortable home clothes to the children. The students are also provided with warm clothing and bedding. They also have access to indoor and outdoor games like carrom, ludo, Lego, jigsaw puzzles, and football, basketball, and cricket. 

The school’s curriculum is based on the ICSE model of learning and provides education up to the fifth standard. The students are also taught vital life skills including gardening, food preservation for winters, rainwater harvesting, and water conservation.

In other good news…

Coming together for a good cause

Kanav Jangra, an 18-month-old child, was suffering from type-1 spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), an inherited disease that affects nerves and muscles, causing muscles to become increasingly weak

As per a TOI report, Jangra required a single dose of the injection, Zolgensma, which carried a heavy price tag of Rs 17.5 crore. 

His father, Amit Jangra, a tax official, started an online crowdfunding campaign that quickly garnered attention. Around 1.5 lakh people, along with the Delhi government as well as notable Bollywood figures, came forward to offer financial support. Even the US-based pharmaceutical company manufacturing Zolgensma agreed to provide the medication at a reduced cost of Rs 10.5 crore.

After the injection, he is now able to move his legs and sit. “I cannot thank all these donors enough for their help. It was impossible for me to raise this enormous amount,” Amit Jangra told TOI, expressing his gratitude.

Edited by Kanishk Singh