I aim to make the world we live in conscious of our roles and responsibilities related to people with physical handicaps and mental retardation. My intent is to minimize challenges such as persistent stigma, discrimination and social exclusion that these individuals face. This website hopes to inspire others, who have a passion for the disabled, to come forward and support the disabled and the organizations that support the handicapped.

Community Issue:

The issue I addressed through my Gold Award project is the challenges faced by the handicapped in our society. The lack of knowledge, infrastructure and relief organizations has left several of the handicapped in the remote and impoverished areas in dire straits and in need of assistance and proper medical care.

Root Cause:

These misunderstandings have led to discrimination and mistreatment of the mentally handicapped. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans felt that those with intellectual disabilities were born because the gods had been angered. During the colonial period, the mentally disabled here in the United States were among those accused of witchcraft. Even after the witch scare of the 1600’s, the mentally retarded were regarded as evil or innately inferior. However, since the 1960’s, the social attitude towards people with mental disabilities in the U.S. and most of the western nations has changed towards tolerance and compassion. The trend in the U.S. for the past several decades has been for the mentally disabled to live in inclusive community settings with support systems to facilitate that experience. However, my research of World Health Organization (WHO) publications, regarding the handicapped in developing countries, revealed that because of poverty and illiteracy, the disabled people in the impoverished areas of these countries lead miserable lives. Children and adults with disabilities are segregated and often exiled from their communities. Those with disabilities are regarded by society as a blemish on family status, a punishment for misdeeds in a previous life, an omen of bad luck and generally an object of shame for their families.

Here in the United States I have seen more of a trend for the disabled to live in inclusive communities with adequate support systems, and therefore it was shocking for me to learn about the attitudes in the developing nations which make the disabled susceptible to exploitation, neglect and abuse. Mental Health has been and still continues to be a neglected and marginalized issue in several third world countries. It is generally neglected by their society and by their governments. The prevailing view about mental illness in some of these cultures is extremely negative. Families often fail to recognize a mental disorder when signs of illness first appear. Most individuals with mental disorders and their families are targets for stigma and discrimination; they hesitate to come forward for appropriate treatment. Some people in countries like Nepal and India even consider mental disability not an illness but a moral weakness caused by supernatural forces like ghosts and witches or because of sins committed during their previous lives. Even in this day and age, faith healers attend to the mentally ill in remote areas of Nepal. These traditional faith healers often treat patients with rituals some of which can be quite brutal like beating the patient with a hot iron rod with the aim of eradicating the so called evil spirits. Most people in these regions think that suffering from mental illness means that one is unfit to remain in society and family due to the loss of control over self, or even being possessed by a Holy Spirit or black magic. Disability management is a huge problem in developing nations. In contrast to the western world and the U.S. where treatment facilities were built several centuries ago, the history of psychiatric services in several third world countries is only a few decades old. There is inadequate awareness among decision makers, social workers and the general population about mental disorders and their consequences. Because of neglect and lack of motivation to seek medical mental help, the probability of these people developing secondary disabilities is higher than it would be in Western countries.

Action Proposed:

To confront some of these misconceptions, to learn firsthand about the plight of the disabled and to provide some relief and help to this segment of our society, I travelled to one of the impoverished regions of India. I volunteered my time shadowing a physician in a hospital and at his private clinic in an affluent neighborhood of New Delhi, and then spent several days at SAMADHAN, an organization that works with the disabled in the slums and refugee colony of Dakshinpuri.


My Gold Award Project has and will improve awareness about mental health and mental disorders. My efforts have educated the community of Dakshinpuri and others who I have interacted with about the preventative aspects of mental retardation. I accomplished my goal of contributing towards creating a healthier society and world through a sustainable awareness program, and by supporting an inclusive preschool program and medical clinic for intellectually and mentally challenged children. I made a difference because my project helped improved the quality of life of handicapped people by educating them, their families and community about the benefits of proper education and medical treatment. My efforts encouraged them to access the available resources such as an inclusive education program, vocational training, physical therapy and rehabilitation/assessment clinics provided by non-profit organizations and medical professionals. I am hopeful that my efforts increased awareness in and around Dakshinpuri about the opportunities available to help this marginalized segment of their community.