Partnering with Aim Higher Inc., a community based organization in my hometown for the Silver Award; and with SAMADHAN, a nonprofit organization based in India for the Gold Award has allowed me to incorporate and transition my passion for serving the disabled from my local community into the global arena. These projects/partnerships have exposed me to the vast inequities within our society. Confronting these injustices and my quest for serving the disabled has empowered me with a strong desire to make a difference in the world. To that effect, I have also established a nonprofit organization whose primary mission is to provide relief and assistance to the handicapped in the poor and underprivileged segments of our society.

Project Goal and Planning:

Through my Gold Award Project, I aimed to make a difference and accomplish my goal of contributing towards creating a healthier society and world through a sustainable awareness program and free medical camps for the handicapped.

I intended to achieve my project goal by planning, organizing and conducting educational/medical camps in villages and remote areas of Nepal. My camps were to have two components, an educational component wherein I planned to inform and educate the villagers of Surkhet and Tikapur about the needs of people with mental disabilities and to facilitate a change in their attitudes towards mental health. At these camps I intended to solicit the volunteer help of health professionals to offer nutritional and health educational services. I wanted to launch awareness programs so as to educate the disabled and their caregivers about maintaining good health, nutrition and hygiene. Secondly, I wanted to assist people with mental disabilities at these camps by bringing physiotherapy services directly to them from a Psychiatrist. To that end, I had established contact with a local doctor in Nepal who is the Head of the Neuropsychiatry Department at a medical school in Nepalgunj, a mid size town near the border of Nepal with India.

Obstacles Encountered:

Upon receiving my project approval in early September, I contacted my partners in Nepal to finalize the plans for my project. However, I was informed that during the Christmas break in December, due to the extremely cold weather conditions in Nepal, it would be a logistical nightmare and a challenge to set the medical camps in the far flung regions of the country. My first challenge was scrambling and reworking my entire timeline and pushing it up by approximately 45 days, so that I could travel during mid November. My next conversation with my partners in Nepal was very discouraging. I was informed that rather than being able to set up 2 to 3 camps over a ten day period, they would be able to help me with only one camp in Surkhet after my arrival in Nepalgunj. My plan was to work on my project over a 2 week period but this obstacle cut my project duration to only 1 week. Fortunately during my prior research and communications with an individual in India who shares my passion for the handicapped; I was able to make contact with a reputable nonprofit organization, SAMADHAN, in Dwarka, India. I was able to communicate my desire of partnering with SAMADHAN to its founder, Mrs. Balasundaram, who agreed to my request. My project had now taken on a slightly different look, but with the same basic premise as my original proposal. I landed in New Delhi, India on November 11th and the very next day I travelled to Nepalgunj to meet my partner and host family. My phone plan did not work in India and I later learned that my hosts were trying to get a hold of me since the 9th to let me know that there was some unexpected extreme weather in the outskirts of Nepalgunj and the unpaved roads to Surkhet had washed off. Upon hearing this news when I arrived in Nepalgunj, I had a decision to make; either wait out the weather and hope that I was able to travel to Surkhet, or change my plans and do something meaningful with SAMADHAN starting in the first week of my trip.

SAMADHAN and INDIA Experiences:

I returned back to India on the 13th and started at SAMADHAN on the 16th. In the meantime, I was also able to contact a local physician who also treats patients with disabilities, and he allowed me to shadow him in hospitals and his private clinic. This unanticipated, but pleasant, change in my plans allowed me get a perspective on the resources and the services available to the more privileged and affluent segment of the Indian society. After completing my stint with SAMDHAN, I have reflected back on the time when I shadowed Dr. Tickoo and have come to realize the deep divide between the “haves” and “have-nots”. The “have-nots” with limited resources mostly live in the slums right alongside some of the most developed and exclusive areas of cities with top rated medical facilities and access to services. This energized me in my drive and my quest to help the cause of the underprivileged especially those hindered even more by their disabilities. Volunteering my time, efforts, energy and resources with SAMADHAN, a well established nonprofit organization that works with the disabled in the slums of Dakshinpuri was the most successful part of my project. Talking to the founder, officers, staff, physical therapists, outreach workers and the educators at SAMADHAN provided me an insight into the stories of these selfless individuals and also the challenges that they face. I learned firsthand about the miserable plight of the disabled in impoverished areas.

I therefore addressed the root cause of the issue by spending a majority of my time with the disabled, their families and also with the community at large in the slums and refugee colony of Dakshinpuri. I accompanied the outreach workers from SAMADHAN during their community surveys, interviewed the locals, met with the families of some disabled children, and convinced and helped them understand the importance of education and regular medical check-ups. I communicated to them the benefits that modern medicine will have towards improving the quality of life of their children. I shared with the parents of the disabled children some of the success stories from SAMADHAN. Seeing that other people with disabilities have benefitted from modern medicine and/or have been assimilated into the mainstream education system hopefully helped the community realize the importance of seeking professional medical help and enrolling in a semi-regimented education system. I helped encourage families to access the early intervention services offered by SAMADHAN. I brainstormed with the supervisors of SAMDHAN procedures and processes to locate and enlist sponsors in my community to support the 21st Conference of the Asian Federation on Intellectual Disabilities being hosted by SAMADHAN. To help organize, maintain and manage the resource and education center on disability at Dwarka, I discussed means and methods to explore options for internship opportunities at SAMADHAN. I was able to lend support to the vocation center where SAMADHAN provides opportunities to the families of the disabled for earning additional means of livelihood. Additionally, by working hands-on with the handicapped children in the Inclusive Preschool, in the physical therapy centers and at the medical clinic, I was able to provide some relief and help to this segment of our society. My efforts at saving my allowance over the past year and contributing it to support and advance the invaluable services provided by SAMADAN helped me make a miniscule though much needed impact.


One of the several successful aspects of my project was that I was able to build awareness about SAMADHAN and the services they provide to the disabled in the slums of Dakshinpuri and the adjacent neighborhoods. Being able to do something tangible about my passion for the disabled and in an area with very limited resources and opportunities was very rewarding to me. Working hands-on in the Inclusive Preschool, in physical therapy and at the medical clinic was the most successful aspect of my project because I was able to provide some direct relief and help to the handicapped children from impoverished neighborhoods. Interacting with and educating/comforting the families, especially the mothers, of the handicapped children made them realize that others care about the well being of their children; and that it is possible that their children can successfully get integrated into main stream society and lead productive and fulfilling lives. Being able to bring smiles on the faces of Monu, Vikas, and Monu’s mom; getting kisses blown at me by cute little Jai; the hugs and emotional goodbyes from everyone the day I was leaving was by far the most successful aspect of my project. I feel that I did make a difference, even though very miniscule, in the lives of all the children that I interacted with during my stay at SAMADHAN and I would not trade it for a thing in the world.

Completing my Gold Award has empowered me to take on a leadership role in supporting the cause of the disabled. I will lead this effort by serving as a resourceful problem solver and provide links to and information about services and vocational opportunities offered by other nonprofits dedicated to the cause of the handicapped.