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  Greetings to all our readers and patrons
         
Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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  DEVOTIONAL  
 
   
Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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  COUNSELING
 
Back to infancy -- they n
 
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
     
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  ACHIEVER  
     
 
The sound of music
   
 
  By Archana Sudheer Gayen  
  "Race Against Time" read the caption of an article in the Bangalore edition of 'The Times of India', dated November 5, 2000. It was the poignant story of then 25-year-old musician Benny Prasad, who, despite severe life-threatening diseases, was pressing forward to living life to the full.

That was nine years ago, and the same person, whose health problems baffled doctors, is now a source of inspiration for many. Not only does he fight his illnesses daily, but proves victorious. They have not lessened his determination or deterred his ambitions and this is evident from the fact that Benny secured a name in the 2006 Limca Book of Records for the 'Most traveled Indian Musician'.

Born on August 6, 1975, in Bangalore, Benny was the first of his generation in the family. Born to a scientist father, there were high hopes about his future. However, he suffered from severe asthma at a very young age and was given cortisone steroids as medication. That did the damage.

As a result, he developed rheumatoid arthritis, 60 per cent lung damage and a failing immune system, which threatened his life.

As he grew older, health problems combined with failures in life, made him rebellious, short-tempered and very angry. He was so depressed with life that he attempted suicide at the tender age of 16. By this stage, he was almost beyond caring about where he went or what he did, so it was not too difficult for his mother to convince him to attend a youth retreat.

There, Benny had an encounter with God, his life changed and a new journey began. The hurting young man was transformed into a totally different person: caring, understanding and full of hope. God gave him new dreams, new goals, and a positive desire. From being the shame of his family, he went on to being their pride.

Surprisingly, before this transition, he had no interest or ability in music. But since then, he has performed on a variety of stages, including before Presidents, at the 2007 Military World Games, at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the 2004 Olympic Games, to name a few.

To add to this, not only does Benny play musical instruments, he also has the credit of having designed two guitars: the world's first Bongo Guitar and a 54-string guitar called the Bentar. Today, through his music, Benny brings the hope of God to thousands of people, travelling to 40-50 countries every year. By March 2008, he had travelled to more than 158 countries.

In 2000, Benny launched his debut instrumental album 'I Surrender All', where he plays the acoustic guitar and is accompanied by 10 violins, four violas and two cellos. His next creation 'In Moments Like These' was released in 2002. His third CD was unique. Named 'When the Music Fades', this album was a blend of Indian and Western styles. It is a collection of worship songs. He plays the guitar, and recorded the Indian-Styled Bamboo Flute, Sarangi, Violin, Viola, Indian vocal harmonies called 'Ragas' and 15 different kinds of the percussion.

His ongoing project 'Tribute to the Unknown God' is a combination of old classic hymns that Benny has re-arranged with a combination of Jazz and Indian Classical music.

Benny's achievements are a testimony of how God can use a person, notwithstanding what the world says. In 2003, Benny became the first person from Karnataka to graduate from the University of the Nations. The graduation ceremony was held in Singapore. Soon after the graduation, Benny was invited to perform as a guest artist at the famous Orchid Festival in Singapore where the President of Singapore was the Chief Guest. The President was so impressed that he took a picture with him, autographed it and mailed it to Benny!

In 2004, Benny performed at the Olympic Games in Greece. He performed for the Welcoming of the South African Athletes and Delegates, as well as at the Cultural Stages and the Museum for the Press Conference (Delirious). It was for this function that he decided to become more creative and designed the Bongo Guitar.

In July 2006, Benny performed at various cultural stages at the FIFA World Cup in Germany. On October 14, 2007, Benny performed in Hyderabad at the Opening Ceremony of the Largest Military World Games ever. He also undertook a 22-nation Caribbean Tour in February 2007. In January 2008, Benny was given an Honorary Doctorate for designing his guitar (BENTAR), as well as for travelling as a musician.

The young musician gives all glory to God for his achievements and believes that his mission in life is to love God first and to honour Him by seeking excellence in everything. He seeks to present instrumental music through recording and live performance that will glorify God and lead others into His presence. Although he continues to fight his ailments that prop up every now and then, his fervor and determination have not decreased.

"If I could be made useful, any one in this world can. If my dreams can come true, yours too can. For those with no hope, there is more to life, than what today holds. I thank God that I did not end my life, but rather chose to live through shame and failure so that today I'm able to be a blessing to the world. Remember, you are never too bad or sinful for God to redeem and transform," Benny says.
 
   
Gift of a cancer survivor
   
 
  By Tripti Nath  
  HARMALA GUPTA'S name has come to be closely connected with dignified cancer care in India. From being a cancer survivor to the founder of CanSupport, a non-government organisation providing assistance to cancer survivors, her journey has been long and challenging.

Today, Gupta's efforts to improve the lives of patients through home-based counselling and palliative care have earned her recognition in India and abroad. The Livestrong Foundation has invited Gupta to join the global debate on cancer at a three-day summit in Dublin, Ireland, later this month, where she will share the platform with world leaders and prominent persons, including American Senator John Kerry; Dr Christopher P. Wild, Director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer; and the Health Ministers of Argentina, Belgium, Ireland, Mexico and Vietnam.

In her mid-fifties, Gupta derives immense satisfaction in serving cancer patients of all age groups and classes. A poster in her New Delhi office draws attention to the aphorism about learning to accept things that cannot be changed. Perhaps, Gupta allowed this philosophy to guide her in accepting her diagnosis.

Two decades have gone by since Gupta was first diagnosed with cancer. She was at the threshold of a promising academic career in 1985, pursuing a doctorate in Chinese Politics at Montreal's (Canada) McGill University when she fell sick with symptoms like chronic fatigue, weight loss and severe back pain. Medical consultations and tests followed. The trauma lasted until a thoracic surgeon at the hospital suggested an open biopsy. The doctors went ahead with a frozen biopsy that confirmed lymphoma. Confusion over the nature of the lymphoma made them refer her to Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, which confirmed Hodgkin's.

Treatment entailed six cycles of chemotherapy followed by a month of radiotherapy. "I had terrible side-effects, unbearable nausea and complete hair loss. The treatment lasted eight months and my husband and I returned to India in 1987 with medical advice for periodic check-ups," she recalls. Two years later, when Gupta returned to Princess Margaret hospital for a review, the doctors found a patch on the left lung and did an open biopsy fearing the cancer had recurred. It was later ruled out.

Even now, Gupta can distinctly recall what it was to face death at the age of 32 with a three-year-old son to look after. "When I came back, it took me almost two or three years to stabilise myself emotionally. I wanted to spend more time with my family. I heeded the advice of doctors to build up my vitality and take it easy as I had to face death prematurely," she says.

Gupta says that every cancer patient has a Damocles' sword hanging on his/her head as the disease can recur any time. But the last 22 years have only strengthened her resilience. "I have to be careful as I had been exposed to radiation during the treatment. Radiation is a double-edged weapon and I have been advised a regular mammogram. Once a year, I go for a mammogram," she says.

It was in the early 1990s that she decided to set up a cancer support group after observing the deficient healthcare conditions at New Delhi's premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). "You need a lot of psycho-social support. In Canada, I had been attending support group meetings of cancer patients as also of those who had recovered. It was really heartening to interact with people who had been completely cured. When I came back, I found that missing here. In India, cancer meant stigma. I wondered how is it that I never met a cancer survivor here. Then, I began getting anonymous calls from caregivers, who had a cancer patient in the family. I managed to bring together six people, including four women whose lives had been devastated by the disease.

"We started visiting the breast cancer clinic at AIIMS, held once a week. The condition of patients there was appalling. About 50 patients and their caregivers were huddled together in one room. They had no privacy. Women were being examined in front of everybody there. For the doctors, it was only a clinical examination but for the women it was traumatic not only to fight the disease but also to be disrobed for examination. Many women were vomiting. They did not know that they could get prosthesis. I arranged for Air India to sponsor sickness bags."

Gupta and her colleagues then told the cancer surgeon, Dr B.M.L. Kapoor, that while they did not want to interfere, they wanted to help. After four years of visiting the clinic, they decided to set up a home-care programme. It coincided with a pain clinic at the Rotary Cancer Hospital in AIIMS.

The anaesthetist at the pain clinic, Dr Abha Saksena, wanted an outreach programme to get feedback from the community. The then Director of AIIMS, Prof. P.K. Dave gave CanSupport its maiden six-month pilot project by giving it permission to visit the homes of six patients in need of palliative care. The results of the free-of-charge intervention were fantastic. The families felt cared for as the CanSupport team visited them every two to three days and addressed questions related to diet and bed care. Explains Gupta, "We succeeded in empowering families to take care of the patients without spending money on a compounder to dress wounds."

CanSupport was set up in 1995 and registered a year later. It now boasts of a staff of 41, which includes 10 teams of medical professionals that visit terminally ill patients in their homes in and around Delhi. "We now have referrals from all the cancer hospitals in the city. A majority of them come from government hospitals. Our teams offer symptomatic relief, psychosocial support, practical advice, train caregivers, provide drugs, spiritual comfort and grief counselling," Gupta elaborates. CanSupport has a helpline (011-26711212) that operates Monday to Friday, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm. It also runs a day-care centre in RK Puram for children and adults undergoing cancer treatment at AIIMS.

Over a period of 12 years, CanSupport has attended to 10,000 patients in addition to their family members. It offers services in the National Capital Region and will soon start its services in Ghaziabad. Says Gupta, "We want to start a national network called Friends of CanSupport to create awareness in the community. Our ultimate goal is to create a world where cancer patients don't feel stigmatised and isolated."

Funds for all this good work are coming from individuals, trusts and foundations and corporate houses. "The major source continues to be individuals whose lives have been touched by cancer or foundations who have a commitment to health," she says.

According to CanSupport, there are 2.2 million cases in India at any given time and 1.1 million cases are added to this number every year. About 70 to 80 per cent of these are detected in the last stages. "By 2010, cancer is projected to be the leading cause of deaths, worldwide. Yet, it is one of the most preventable and curable of the major life-threatening diseases. People are dying because they come for treatment when it's too late. Cancer services in India are deficient. It is not part of our culture to go for screening and our services are not geared to that end. It is important to identify people in higher risk groups, such as tobacco users," she emphasises.

Gupta is happy that her advocacy, as also that of the Indian Association of Palliative Care, has finally persuaded policy makers in the Health Ministry to include palliative care as part of the National Cancer Control Programme. As a cancer survivor, she has been able to make a difference to the lives of innumerable others who have experienced a similar trauma. (Women's Feature Service)
Photo caption: Harmala Gupta at her office - photo WFS

 
   
Theology personified
   
 
  By A.J. Philip  
 
IT is difficult to find a person, more mild-mannered and soft-spoken than Rev Dr Ravi Tiwari, Registrar of the Senate of Serampore College (University). He is so self-effacing that he could not sleep properly when he stayed for a day at Dharma Jyoti Vidya Peeth at Chandpur in Faridabad in Haryana. "In the Hindu tradition, it is not proper to touch any articles or belongings of a sanyasi. And here I was sleeping on the bed of a sanyasi (bishop)! Finally, I rationalised that since I am also a brahmachari (celibate), the injunction does not, perhaps, apply to me". Dr Tiwari is a second-generation Christian, who finds the worship service in the Mar Thoma Syrian Church more agreeable than the high-decibel, drum-beating service in some Pentecostal churches. "It is partly because I am a heart patient with a stent in the artery". His association with the Mar Thoma Church began when he was just a toddler. "My father used to leave me at the Sehora Ashram in the care of Koshy Achen, who later became Bishop Easow Mar Timotheos". Small wonder that he was invited to deliver the Easow Mar Timotheos Mission Lecture -- 2009 at Dharma Jyoti Vidya Peeth. In an interview to The Herald of India, Rev Dr Tiwari spoke on a wide range of issues:

Question: Will you please tell us about how you became a Christian?

Answer: My father accepted Jesus Christ as his saviour in the early thirties. He changed his name to Yeshudas Tiwari. We are Brahmins from Uttar Pradesh. Our ancestors are believed to have written the Mahabharata. Soon after his baptism, my father was sent to Serampore for theological studies. Unfortunately, Serampore did not enthuse him and he left the place disappointed. From there, he went to Mahatma Gandhi and Archarya Vinobha Bhave to learn a few lessons on how to lead a Christ-filled life. Eventually, he returned to Serampore in 1939 to complete his course and then to teach in 1963. So, I was born a Christian.

Q: You have a long association with the Mar Thoma Church. How did it begin?

A: We lived for a while at Sehora in Madhya Pradesh. As I mentioned, my father was a friend of Koshy Achen, who later became a Bishop. When the Mar Thoma Church wanted its liturgy to be translated into Hindi, it was to my father that it turned. Even today, it is this translation, which is used in the church. As you know, Bishop Easow Mar Timotheos breathed his last in Andamans. On his way to Andamans, he spent some time with my father and I at Serampore. I accompanied the Bishop to Belur Matt when he showed an interest to see the Ramakrishna Mission headquarters and meet the chief of the Mutt.

Q: How did your association with Serampore begin?

A: I first went there in 1964 when I was just 17. The imposing building and the towering theologians who taught there impressed me. However, it was much later that I learnt about how Serampore brought about a theological and social revolution in the country. William Carey was a pioneering missionary, who played a major rule in the abolition of sati. He campaigned vigorously against infanticide. He and his two friends -- Marshman and Ward -- laid the foundations of Indian theology. While it is known that they translated the Bible into many Indian languages, it is forgotten that Carey also translated some Hindu scriptures into Bengali. I taught for a while at Serampore.

Q: How did you choose to become a theologian?

A: I was a good student, often topping in the class. My father wanted me to become an engineer. He got me admitted to an engineering college but I spent my time playing table tennis. I had no aptitude for engineering. I realised that theology and philosophy were the subjects of my choice.

Q: Where all did you teach before becoming Registrar of the Senate of Serampore College?

A: I was Dean, Department of Doctoral Studies, Gurukul, Chennai and Principal of John Robert's Theological Seminary, Shillong. I also had a stint as Vice-Principal/Rector, Serampore College. I was also Professor, Religion and Philosophy, in all these colleges.

Q: Why is Serampore discontinuing the B.Th programme?

A: There was some confusion about B.Th and B.D. being graduate programmes, because both have "Bachelor" in the degrees. B.D. will now be a five-year residential programme. It will be followed by M.Th. We are advising all those institutions offering B.Th to upgrade their course to the B.D. level. We are planning to introduce a degree programme in Missions/Missiology from 2010-11.

Q: Why is Serampore offering only theological courses? Why can't it offer secular courses also?

A: It is one of the oldest universities in the country. Initially, it was guided by the Danish Charter. Later on, when the British took it over, they enacted a new charter under which it can offer only theological courses.

Q: Should Serampore remain a prisoner of the British Charter?

A: Of course, it is possible to amend the charter, provided Indian churches show keenness to have it done. Until recently it was the only Christian university in the country. A Catholic institution in Guwahati has now got the status of a university. The Christian community should have thought about having more universities of its own and tried for that. The government has become liberal in allowing private universities. The Christians should use the opportunity to strive for more Serampore Colleges.

Q: What kind of theology would you like to promote in this country?

A: India is a multi-religious, multi-cultural nation. While preaching the word of God, we should be able to appreciate the religious beliefs and feelings of the people. We should not offend them in any manner. William Carey and his team had a three-fold strategy based on education, health and preaching. It is sad that some missionaries and churches are deviating from this time-tested strategy.

Q: As a Serampore veteran, have you noticed any change in the college or on the campus?

A: There have been a lot of changes. Now, we concentrate only on education. Healing and preaching have taken a backseat. There is a Baptist church on the campus. Earlier, there were no crucifixes or any other objects of veneration in the church. There was only a baptismal pond. But when a Bengali priest took over, he put a crucifix in the church on the ground that "we Bengalis cannot worship without a crucifix in front of us'.
 
   
A Dream Win
   
 
  By Deepanjali Kakati  
  SHE thought it was all over. As the second place winners were announced in the buzzing hall hosting the 2009 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), Tara Adiseshan thought she wasn't going to win anything this year.

But then, she heard her name called, "for first place, best in category, and the Young Scientist Award. I was ecstatic! I am still shocked that my project was chosen," says the 14-year-old Indian American from Charlottesville, Virginia. Adiseshan received a $50,000 college scholarship at the Reno, Nevada event in May. Intel says it is the world's largest pre-college science fair and more than 1,500 young scientists from 56 countries, regions and territories competed this year.

For her project, Adiseshan says she identified and classified evolutionary relationships between sweat bees and the microscopic worms that live inside them.

"Doing well at ISEF has been one of my dreams for a long time. I have participated in science fairs for seven years, and this is the last year that I can participate in pre-collegiate science fairs. This has definitely been a very satisfying closure for my science fair journey," says Adiseshan. "More than anything, I hope that this award is an indication that I will be able to help change the world through science in the future."

A homeschooled high school senior, Adiseshan will enter Stanford University in California for undergraduate studies this fall. She later wants to pursue a Ph.D. in biology. "I hope that in the future, I would be doing as much as possible to help save the inhabitants of the Earth, more specifically conserving animal species," she says.

Adiseshan says that she has always loved animals and wildlife. "I feel that since animals cannot speak human languages, they need people to stand up for them and help them."

An aspiring animal scientist, she also credits her success to homeschooling. "I know that I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for homeschooling. I was able to travel, pursue a rigorous education, conduct research and participate in other extracurricular activities. Homeschooling offers freedom and flexibility to pursue one's interests," says Adiseshan, whose parents moved to the United States in the early 1990s. The family visits India almost every year.

Adiseshan is an active member of her community and is on the Roots and Shoots National Youth Leadership Council. Roots and Shoots is an international environmental and humanitarian youth program run by the Virginia-based Jane Goodall Institute. "I started the Charlottesville Roots and Shoots Club. We are planning on working on a campaign to raise awareness about the amphibian extinction crisis," she says.

For the past year, Adiseshan was the vice president of the Virginia Junior Academy of Science. In November, she collaborated with the University of Virginia's Office for Diversity and Equity to organize a Science Career Symposium. It featured "scientist speakers who were known not only for their research, but also for the level of involvement in their own communities... There were over 120 students in attendance, and almost as many on the waiting list. The students listened to presentations and participated in interactive lab stations. It was very gratifying to see so many kids from diverse backgrounds having fun learning about science."

This studious teenager doesn't, however, spend all her time cooped up in a research lab. Adiseshan is a certified scuba diver and has gone diving in the Caribbean. "I like playing sports, particularly basketball, and camping. I also enjoy performing in theater productions, especially improvisation," she says.

Adiseshan is an active competitor in speech and debate contests, likes pop and rock music and loves to read. "I enjoy reading fantasy books, but I will usually read anything that I find interesting, no matter what genre the book is in." She doesn't watch TV, but does enjoy watching movies.

Her advice to young people interested in research is, "Don't give up! One of the biggest challenges for students interested in science or mathematics lies in finding a research mentor. It was very hard for me to find a mentor. I had to send out my resume to at least 100 scientists before I was able to find a good fit. Once you do finally get a mentor and get access to research facilities, it is definitely worth it." (Courtesy: SPAN)
 
   
Confidence Builders
   
 
  By Meetu Tewari  
  CBM (Christoffel-Blindenmission or Christian Blind Mission) is an organisation providing medical and educational assistance and livelihood opportunities to people with disabilities in the developing world. Started by a German, Pastor Ernst Jakob Christoffel in 1908, the organisation is now active in 113 countries, reaching out to 21 million people. Ms Silvava Mehra heads the South Asia Regional Office (North) of CBM with headquarters in Bangalore. With over two decades of experience of working with the disabled, Ms. Mehra had a lot to share with The Herald of India about CBM and her work.

Question: Please tell us something about yourself

Answer: I have an Irish father and an Italian mother. I have just one brother, who is disabled. He has juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. My initial years were spent in the U.K. after which I moved to Italy. I am married to an Indian, Sanjay Mehra, and we have a 24-year-old son Ayush.

Q: How did you come to work for the disabled?

A: I think it was because of my brother, though I never made that choice consciously. I learned Braille when I was nine years old because my brother was learning it and it was a way to spend time together. I am actually a Chartered Accountant and I also did law. Today I realize it has been my education that taught me to manage an organisation and how to handle accounts. Initially, I was working as a legal adviser for a construction firm when I decided to take a break and come to Asia. I believe we are guided by chance; we reach where we are meant to be. I think that is how I landed here, leaving behind a corporate career and working for the disabled.

Q: What is the larger vision guiding you and does your religion influence your work?

A: I strongly believe in equality. We are responsible for the environment around us. For example, we complain about pollution but we too are driving cars which add to pollution. Similarly, we talk about the rights of the disabled but what are we doing to generate their acceptance? The teachings of Jesus Christ have always guided me, His words ensure that I try and follow honesty and abide by the law of compassion.

When we see the condition in which some disabled persons are kept in by their own families, it is very easy to criticize them. But what guarantee is there that you and I wouldn't do the same if we were in that situation? For instance, if that child was the only thing stopping you from going to work when you have a family to feed, you may be forced to keep him chained for his safety and for the family. It is hard to be objective. I remember something an American friend said to me, "you can never walk in somebody else's shoes." That just remained with me over the years because it is true.

Q: Can you share some memorable experiences?

A: I have been blessed -- there is no other word for it -- to have been able to work with some exceptionally talented people. I am not being condescending when I say this. When a disabled person learns to type, people are amazed. Why is it so? He is like you and I. If we can type, he too can type. The capabilities of the disabled are amazing. They put aside their disabilities and become role models. My brother is one of them. He has never had a job but he carries a very positive attitude. On his own he manages all his problems and issues. When sometimes I am overwhelmed with work and my own troubles, I remember how he is able to remain cheerful and independent. Initially, I had the wrong idea that I would be helping people but as it turned out, I have been helped much more than I could ever give back. Meeting such brilliant and talented persons has been a very enriching experience.

Q: What brought you to India?

A: It was pure chance. I ran out of money in Sri Lanka and found a local Sri Lankan job and then moved to India. It seemed very natural, as I had been visiting India so often. I came to India as part of the CBM team in December 1999, that is ten years ago.

Q: What is CBM?

A: We celebrated our 100th year in 2008. It was founded by Pastor Christoffel, who went to Persia to help children with disabilities. That is how CBM began. We are a development organisation. Though, initially, the focus had been on blindness, we now help persons with disabilities in general. We also help persons of all religions and castes and hence we decided to continue with the acronym CBM only without any emphasis on the type of disability or any religious affiliation. We have a twin-track approach: rights of people with disability and service delivery. We aim to provide them with educational qualification, medical help and, finally, help them start a profession.

Q: What attracted you to CBM?

A: Previously, I had been working with RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind), which was supplying products to CBM. I was in the German office of CBM when I decided I wanted to be in CBM and so I came here. I always say I have the best job in the world but, ideally, I shouldn't have a job. I would be very happy if tomorrow I do not have a job because that would mean the world is OK.

Q: Tell us about some of your achievements with CBM?

A: Everything here has been a team achievement. This is the best team I have ever worked with. They are all young, highly motivated people who are brilliant in their fields. All that we have achieved is through their combined efforts. We have worked to raise credibility of the organization and from simply donating money, we worked to gain the trust of our partners. That was very difficult but we managed to do it. We focus on the need of an individual, rather than on simply donating money. For instance, previously, we would decide so this person needs a book and we would go and buy it for him. Now we realize that person would like to buy his own book, so we help him find a job, help him reach above his disability so that he can earn and buy whatever he needs.

I remember once my brother was on a wheelchair and an acquaintance met us. He talked to me about my brother but did not address my brother at all, like he was not there or was in some way incapable of understanding a normal conversation. That shocked me. That, perhaps, influenced me to work towards the independence and rights of the disabled.

Q: How does CBM and partner enablement work?

A: Every partner is different. I must emphasise that there is no thing such as one size fits all. We have all studied things like capacity-building, here we put those concepts into practice. Earlier, we were a simple charity donating money. Of course, there were issues like transparency. We found that money alone was not meeting the needs of those who were supposed to benefit from it. Now we build long-term plans with our partners for sustainability. We are equally involved in their work. We build networks that were not there previously. This requires tremendous negotiations, which we undertook to get success. So, if tomorrow CBM suddenly stops working, would the work continue? Through our approach, we ensure it will. We make them independent so that they can work on their own even without our assistance.

Q: How can we contribute?

A: The easiest method is through money but it is not necessarily the most effective. We need to break down the intellectual barriers, the bias and prejudice against the disabled, who are just different. We need to give them a voice, use advocacy to achieve their rights, use community involvement and, mostly, give them acceptance. We should not have a condescending attitude towards them. One of my brother's friends has cerebral palsy. He is now at the university where a friend said to him that he hopes in the future there will be a cure. He replied that he needs no cure but acceptance. He is fine the way he is, it is others who have a problem, and not him. We need to realize that the differently abled are not unhappy by the way they are, they are unhappy by the barriers people create.
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Photo caption: Ms Silvava Mehra (in white dress in the middle) with her team members.

 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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