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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

This Girl Is Altering How India Treats Disabilities


A single dialog, an individual, or a gathering can change you. Whether it is with Preethi Srinivasan, it could most definitely alter the best way you have a look at life. Preethi has confronted each problem that life has thrown her method, carving a path to assist others when she was in dire want of assist herself. 

The 42-year-old is way from unusual. Born in Chennai and raised throughout three continents, the world was actually her oyster. The nationwide stage swimmer began swimming on the age of three. 

Shortly after the 1983 World Cup, impressed by Sir Vivian Richards, she additionally began taking part in cricket at 4. Enjoying for the Tamil Nadu state staff at simply eight years previous, she was the captain of the under-19 state staff. 

Together with her sights set on becoming a member of the nationwide staff together with attaining excellence in lecturers, she felt that the whole lot was going her method.

“Not even the shadow of failure had touched my life,” she explains.

However, the whole lot modified within the blink of an eye fixed when she was 18. Having fun with together with her mates on a Puducherry seaside, she immediately fell down whereas taking part in within the water. A spinal wire damage left her with none feeling below the neck. 

By the unwavering love and help of her mother and father, and her unbelievable resilience, she emerged like a phoenix, and at present offers wings to tons of of individuals with spinal wire damage by way of her enterprise ‘Soulfree’, a charitable belief.

Soulfree INSPIRE (Built-in Spinal Rehabilitation Centre) in 2013, the belief’s rehab centre, offers holistic remedy, rehabilitation, medical care, schooling, counselling, employment alternatives to individuals with spinal wire accidents at no cost. The 20,000 sq. ft facility in Tiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu, has helped over 200 folks with extreme disabilities dwell a lifetime of dignity up to now.

Swimming towards the tide

Preethi has helped over 2500 people with spinal cord injuries
Preethi has helped over 2500 folks with spinal wire accidents

After the accident, Preethi was in shock and confronted a extremely powerful time. From excelling in all spheres of life, being confined to a wheelchair broke her spirit.

“My coronary heart was completely damaged. I had a privileged existence for the primary 18 years of my life. I used to be showered with love at dwelling, was within the high 2 % of scholars in America, performed cricket with legends, was extraordinarily match and delightful. I used to be making my method in direction of success, when the accident left me in full shock,” Preethi shares with The Higher India

She provides that from with the ability to throw the ball with full pressure, she was unable to even transfer her little finger. 

“From being extraordinary in each method, I immediately couldn’t even feed myself, bathe myself. I couldn’t even get off the bed. It actually broke me,” she provides.

Her mother and father stood by her like rocks by way of this complete ordeal. Her father give up his job to care for her they usually moved to Tiruvannamalai, a non secular, temple city, to heal.

Preethi then tried to get right of entry to a correspondence course for BSc Psychology, however she was rejected as there have been sensible lessons and the universities weren’t disabled-friendly. There have been no elevators or ramps.  

She remembers being requested, “Why do folks such as you come to check?” Her father, her greatest cheerleader, purchased her books to check, and motivated her to teach herself, diploma, or no diploma. He would learn out to her from numerous books throughout genres, from fiction to instructional books to non secular books. She would battle with him, however he didn’t let go of her hand, and helped her overcome her ache. 

Simply as she began piecing her life collectively, one other huge wave hit her. Her father died of a coronary heart assault in 2007, and simply 4 days later, her mom, too, had a coronary heart assault and needed to have a bypass surgical procedure. 

“My world was rocked once more. I had an 80-year-old grandmother to care for. We needed to go to Chennai for the surgical procedure. We had no concept how we’d handle the subsequent meal or who would even assist me sit on my wheelchair. I needed to begin incomes cash and life appeared tough over again,” says Preethi.

At this level, her mates reiterated the necessity for her to get a proper diploma. She took up BSc Medical Sociology because it had no sensible exams. She additionally did MSc in Psychology regardless of desirous to do counselling psychology.

“I wished to counsel folks as my voice is the one factor I’ve. I used to be denied admission and needed to accept psychology,” she says.

‘We too deserve a lifetime of dignity’

Rehabilitation is provided free of cost at Soulfree
Rehabilitation is offered freed from value at Soulfree

Throughout this time, as she grappled with getting an schooling and a remedy for her mom, she encountered two deaths that shook her to the core. 

“Not desirous to care for them, two paraplegic ladies who I knew have been apparentfly poisoned by their households. It left me questioning, India has one of many largest populations and but there is no such thing as a place for a quadriplegic or a paraplegic particular person to dwell with dignity. There was nobody to care for me when my mother bought sick,” she provides.

She then began researching and located that there weren’t many long-term rehabilitation centres or locations that supplied take care of folks with spinal wire accidents. Her mom then persuaded her to begin such a haven that gives a lifetime of dignity for folks with extreme disabilities. 

“At first, I laughed off the concept as I had no clue about working or financing a non-profit organisation. However the loss of life of those ladies made me get up. If I’m simply going to be afraid to do one thing, I’m a part of the issue. Nobody understands this higher than me resulting from my lived expertise. I made a decision to lift my voice and do no matter I can to one way or the other uplift this section of society as a result of we’re so utterly invisible,” she provides.

With this in thoughts, she began Soulfree Encourage. Individuals include a caregiver and spend about 6 months within the centre. They obtain coaching, which Preethi calls re-engineering, the place they get emotional and bodily rehabilitation. 

“We restore their will to dwell. Our intention is to revive self-reliance from a physiological, psychological and socio financial perspective. It’s vital for them to go dwelling and be capable of earn some cash. We’re giving worldwide requirements of care freed from value. We’ve physiotherapy, occupational remedy, hydrotherapy, sports activities, counselling periods, coaching periods, tailoring, pc lessons and extra. It’s a holistic system born from an experiential framework,” provides Preethi.

Soulfree additionally gives information and consciousness packages about spinal wire damage. They’ve a particular give attention to ladies and supply a help system to these with extreme disabilities by way of instructional and employment alternatives. Additionally they present wheelchairs and medical care to these in want. To maintain everybody’s spirits up, additionally they have convention calls.

Karthikeyan (25), was bedridden after he fell from a tree three years in the past. He got here to Soulfree six months again and is now capable of stroll with a stick.

“Being bedridden made me ponder ending my life. I additionally had some bedsores. I used to be utilizing a wheelchair. Now, I’m able to stroll utilizing a stick and do my each day chores and have learnt tailoring and computer systems, which I’ll use to help myself as soon as I’m again dwelling,” says Karthikeyan.

Preethi can be working with the Tamil Nadu authorities to incorporate rehabilitation within the authorities insurance coverage scheme. She is a member of the advisory board for the ‘Welfare of the In another way-Abled’ in Tamil Nadu.

“Most individuals, after a spinal wire damage, go dwelling and don’t know what to do. The federal government ought to work on offering correct recognition for our incapacity and with employment alternatives for folks like us,” she says. 

What gave her the energy to take action a lot whereas she herself confronted innumerable challenges in her each day life? 

Preethi's parents were her greatest support
Preethi’s mother and father have been her biggest help

“I got here to grasp that as a substitute of feeling sorry for myself, I ought to attempt to make use of the chance of the problem as a result of in any other case life would have been too simple for me. When you’ve got particular skills, you might be given particular challenges. When you succeed when the whole lot goes your method, it’s not a giant deal. It’s when it’s a must to field along with your palms tied behind your again and save the world, that’s when it’s a victory,” she smiles.

She nonetheless has days when she feels low, that’s when she will get on a convention name together with her mates from Soulfree, who inform her that life will get higher. Soulfree has helped over 2,500 folks up to now. 

“These lives are invisible and the world discards us so simply if we die. I consider that each human life has a worth no matter your potential or incapacity, nobody deserves to die. My aim is to make sure that nobody dies of bedsores or resulting from their household’s compulsions,” she provides.

When the world closed the door on Preethi, she determined to create change and alternatives. She is now pursuing her PhD from IIT Madras.

When you want to donate to Soulfree, you are able to do it right here. 

Edited by Padmashree Pande.



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