Following extensive pre-departure training I honestly believed that I was prepared to tackle the challenges that lay ahead when setting off on our journey to Asha Jyothi Handicapped Welfare Society in South India. How wrong I was. Even though the training provided me with the knowledge and the insight into life in India nothing could prepare me for the real life situation. As a physiotherapy student I treated some of the most profound disabilities I have ever seen and it was only by the help and co-operation of the team that we could support each other through this emotional and physical challenge.

Despite the change in climate, food and endless bug bites it was the living conditions and lack of understanding surrounding disability that hit me the most. We wanted to make our project sustainable and we decided that the only way to make this achievable was through direct contact with the public, education and providing parents with the skills and confidence to care for their children with disabilities in the home. This was extremely difficult and time consuming but now, sitting here in Ireland and looking back 50 community visits is something we can be so proud of as a team.

We empowered, encouraged and educated the community on appropriate care for those children with disabilities. We encouraged them to allow these children to take part and interact as much as possible and become an integral part of family life, rather than lying on a mat in the corner of a room. We organised a Special Olympics to show children with disabilities just how much they really can do and can contribute. Finally we organised an awareness rally to promote physical activity in disability and our profession of physiotherapy.

Our project was about empowering and providing independence and confidence to all those with disabilities and those caring for them and honestly it has been the most rewarding experience I have ever completed. I’ve learned the value of compassion and empathetic listening even when language is a barrier. I’ve learned how to motivate, inspire and empower and how to be the little nudge that someone may need in the direction of independence.

I’ve learned the value and strength behind teamwork and co-operation and how to work for each other in the most challenging of situations. I will take with me forever the ability to think on my feet, use what I have and make the most of every situation. I’ve learned that we must not focus on the things we can’t do and focus on what we can. I’ve truly learned that simplicity is the greatest form of happiness and that happiness that my Asha Jyothi family gave me will stay with me forever.

About Author:
Name: Caoimhe Gibney
Award: Bronze
SDG: 3