Live free, live able

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Since its inception in 1992, Arushi has been working with persons with disabilities to promote inclusivity as well as generate opportunities for them

Living freely and with dignity is every individual’s dream. We all wish for it and strive to achieve it. Freedom may mean different things to different people at different points in their lives, but when you have a disability that can throw a curve ball at you, then managing that disability and circumventing it opens the doors to that ‘freedom’.

You may not be free of that disability, but you will definitely be free of the shackles that the disability tries to bind you with. Arushi, an NGO in Bhopal, endeavours to create pathways to enable people with disabilities lead a free and dignified life. The basic objective of the organisation is to generate opportunities and enhance capacities and working capabilities of people with disabilities.

Being in the field of special education, I understand and see the value of this kind of assistance and guidance.  The Australian Government’s Disability Discrimination Act of 1992 and the Disability Standards for Education (2005) clearly outlines the importance of inclusivity in education and other areas in the society. But individuals with disabilities in India are not as fortunate and it is organizations like Arushi that step in as their advocates to ensure they are not subjected to oppression, exploitation, abuse and marginalisation.

Arushi works with people with disabilities to develop capabilities in them that are need based. They are given the impetus and know-how to enable them to assess their choices and make informed decisions. Impairments come in many forms — physical and/or psychological.

Since its inception in 1992, Arushi has been committed to working with persons with disabilities especially from the weaker sections of the society, promoting inclusivity in education for children and ensuring these children are integrated into regular schools once they are equipped with school readiness skills. The organisation not only works with other like-minded organisations like the Department of Social Justice, Rehabilitation Council of India, Sir Dohrabji Tata Trust and Bhoj University, but also seeks to create within the community an awareness about disabilities by the sensitisation of the society. One of their landmark achievements has been making the Habibganj Railway Station in Bhopal completely disabled-friendlyand this was done in alliance with the Bhopal Railway Division. This is the first and by far the only one of its kind in the country!! This effort has helped provide equitable access for persons with disabilities, has maximised their independence, is safe and allows them to travel with dignity. Arushi is also on the team of 17 auditors who will audit cities, buildings and public spaces to ensure they are disabled-friendly.

Being a NGO, Arushi relies heavily on donations made by the altruistic members of the community and on the selfless work of the volunteers. Here in Sydney Ajay and Nandita Bajaj, Manbir and Sweety Kohli, Arun and Anjali Nanda, Samit and Shailja Chandra and Ratna Kuppur came together to assist Arushi continue with the excellent work being done. In order to raise funds, they organised a musical evening that was attended by over 200 people. The evening was dedicated to the soulful poetry of the eminent Gulzar Saab, lyrics with subtle imagery that have helped express the emotions of many an actor/actress on the silver screen. A product of months of planning and preparation, the unique event and endeavour was supported by Sydney’s well-regarded artists Avijit Sarkar and Srijani Dan who were brilliantly supported by Sadiq Rehmani, Abhijit Dan and Sanjeev Raja. The evening was also set to music by the melodious voices of the students of the Natraj Academy, Aditi, Amit, Arun, Kerman, Manoj, Poornima Bhat, Rashmie, Shailja and Sumedha.

The musical evening was special in more ways than one. There was the heart-warming video of the children of Arushi which was followed by an inspiring video message from Gulzar Saab, a great supporter of Arushi, recorded specially for the Sydney siders who attended the event to support the cause.

The evening in its entirety was managed by volunteers — while some worked for months, some joined in the last week and some others on the day by just coming in early or staying back late to help. The soothing ambience was created and the food served was all home cooked. Except for the venue and the sound system, no-one was paid for their services. Anil Mudgal and Rohit Trivedi from Arushi organised certificates signed by Gulzar Saab for all the volunteers, something each one of them will cherish forever. The amazing evening would not have been possible without the contributions of Ashokji, Vikram, Nancy, Aneesh, Suman, Mani, Gayatri and Naina.

Information on Arushi and its award-winning activities was shared throughout the evening to raise awareness. It ignited an interest in the people about Arushi and the all-important work that is being done by the organization. One of the volunteers said, “I believe everyone left with a sense of meaning and a smile that became one with the smiles of the children of Arushi.”

For more information on Arushi and how you can get involved please visit   http://arushi-india.org/index.html; For any further queries please send an email to shailja.chandra@gmail.com

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