“When I was at school, I watched other kids get medals and prizes for sport, but because of my disability, I got nothing” says Suman. That changed in 2002 when schools in Ranchi decided to mark Disability Day by involving children with disability in athletics competitions. Suman came out with a handful of medals for 100 metres sprints, long jump, and long distance running. “That day changed my mindset. I was good at sport!” he laughs.
After completing his studies, Suman got a job as a middle school teacher, and when the school football team needed a coach, Suman was keen to take on the role. “None of the other teachers knew anything about football. They thought it was funny that the disabled guy wanted to be the coach, but there was no other option!” When national coaches visited the area looking to recruit talented
students, they were surprised to see a man with a physical disability being the coach of a strong team. “That started my life in football’’. Not long afterwards, Suman was offered 6 months training to qualify as a National-level referee. He now referees for games across 4 States.
Seeing someone with a disability in a position like Suman’s, changes attitudes about disability. Suman’s experiences inspire younger people with disability.
Back in his village, Suman is actively involved in the local DPO. CBM’s partner organisation, CSS, has set up many DPOs in the area around Ranchi, as well as 350 self-help groups. CSS has links with the Para-Olympics association and the Disabled Sports Authority.
Laxmi Kumari was challenged with physical disability by birth. When she was very young and during the age of her school admission her father told her not to go for school admission because he thought Laxmi would face difficulty in mobility or might be hurt in school. He advised to stay at home rather than going outside but she didn’t follow his advice. She requested her father to admit her into school and convinced him by showing her determination. Along with her father she went to the school but teacher didn’t want to take her admission after seeing her physical challenges.
Laxmi told that she can overcome her challenge by using her feet to hold, write and draw. She carried a slate and chalk and drew a straight line using her foot to prove that she can which was liked by her teacher and she got her admission. She went to school for fifteen days without her slate and observed
her teacher very well that how she wrote any letter in the board and on the sixteenth day she carried her slate and wrote whatever the teacher had been instructing till that day. After that she never looked back, her classmates, teachers all of them encouraged in her every step of life. After her schooling Laxmi completed her college from a distant place. She travelled everyday by bus and faced lots of challenge. When she was introduced to the organization, she started attending training programmes there and realized that guidance and support for persons with disabilities and especially for Women with disabilities is very essential. Laxmi felt that self-reliance and financial independence had an important role in every woman’s life. She received all kinds of support from the organization for ensuring her social and financial security.
She had a dream to do a nursing course and get a secured job. CSS helped her to enroll in a nursing school but her father was apprehensive and assured her that he would take all her responsibility and she should not try to do a job outside. Laxmi explained to him her need to become independent and was disheartened that she could not pursue her desired career. However, CSS encouraged her to start with teaching the poor children of her area which will also get her some income. As a result Laxmi taught in a school for one year. After that she came back to village and started study support for the children. CSS provided her education support during for her higher studies and graduation, as well as financial support to the family for cow rearing to bring some stability. That time one of her teachers called media to cover a report on her incredible journey. After publishing the report on Laxmi, Dr. Sureswar Pandey who is one of the founder members of Gurunanak Homes for the Handicapped children congratulated her and offered her a job in the hospital. Laxmi has proved herself to be one of the efficient employees of the hospital. CSS had supported Laxmi feels her journey has just begun and she has a greater role to plan in supporting other women especially disabled women to find their identity and feels that the organization provides an ideal platform to do so. She feels women and girls with disabilities must pursue education and most of all should have faith on their strengths. Laxmi says disability is just a challenge and overcoming it makes you find your identity and your purpose in life.