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Can We Do Anything About This?
The sight of a sick man, an old man and a funeral moved Gautama Buddha to renounce his throne, to abandon all his royal comforts and family and to seek for humanity the path that would end sorrow. Daily, however, we see men, women and children in worse condition than some of what the Buddha saw yet we are not moved to action. Can there be worse misery than persons on all fours; persons dependent upon others even for such needs as hygiene, dressing and eating; persons wanting to go somewhere but looking for someone to take them there?
One may ask, can we really do something? Yes, we can. There are many types of mobility aids that can make many of the disabled mobile to some extent. Here is a list:
Now let us see the extent of neurological and orthopedic physical disability in India. A survey has indicated that there are about four million people out of a population of one billion who need mobility aids. The most common cause is polio. An income of US$1 per person per day is the international poverty line and 50% of Indians fall below this line! 70% of children do not have access to adequate sanitation. Countless families with a handicapped child cannot afford even the simplest mobility aids, a situation that affluent nations would consider scandalous for their children. For the last seven years, the TOS in India has therefore retained mobility aids as its national service project. The regions in toto are given around 70,000 rupees per year [a little over US$1500] from the interest on its National Project Endowment Fund. The regions themselves also manage to collect almost the same amount in donations.
The sophisticated, designed- to-measure mobility aids mentioned above are very costly and effectively reserved for the rich disabled. The TOS concentrates on serving the poor. It collaborates with manufacturers receiving government aid but whose waiting lists are always long. When we provide money, the queue moves forward a little more quickly.
Dr J.B. Bannerji, an orthopedic surgeon in Allahabad who has devoted his whole life to the service of the handicapped, affirms that what is needed in India are mobility aids that can be manufactured in villages themselves, which will make them very cheap. He has developed a large number of aids using bamboo and other local materials. He says that bamboo is not at all costly, is very light, flexible and strong. I hope that the TOS will cooperate with him in his scheme.
It is often said that we should undertake big projects. What is important, however, is having the compassion and the helping spirit, and to do whatever we can, whether it be big or small. If we are not in a position to provide a wheel chair or tricycle or artificial leg, let us not hesitate to provide crutches, walkers or canes.
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