A catalyst for change, for the development of persons with disabilities
“One needs to work persistently towards securing a sustainable livelihood because without this, nothing substantial can be achieved.“–Livingston
Livingston was like any other normal child until the age of two. An attack of polio affected both his legs and left him with 90% locomotor disability. His first contact with CBRF’s Partner IRCDS was in 2005 when he was given the opportunity to speak about the issues faced by the persons with disabilities in Tiruvallur Block on World Disability Day. From September 2006 onward, the staff at IRCDS met Livingston at regular intervals and interacted with him about the formation of a Disabled Persons’ Organisation (DPO) in his village (Ekkadu). As a result, the first Village level DPO – named Ekkadu DPO, was formed in Tiruvallur Block. Following this, he attended several training programmes for DPO members/leaders on entitlements for the disabled.
He was elected as the President of Vasantham Federation, a Block level DPO (BDPO) federation for Tiruvallur Block. In 2009, a BDPO office was opened in Ekkadu to carry out the Federation’s activities. On September 11, 2010, Livingston was democratically elected as the President of the District Level Federation which consists of two Block level DPOs. This Federation was registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act.
Livingston has acted as a catalyst for the development of various persons with disabilities. He has helped 42 persons with disabilities in acquiring employment and played a role in conducting the marriage of persons with disabilities. Today, Livingston has become a familiar face for persons with disabilities in the State. He has also received two awards:
Valnal Sathaniyalar (Lifetime achiever) by Revenue Minister of Tamil Nadu on World Disability Day celebrations in 2013
“Best Social Worker Award” by Chennai based Citizen Forum in March 2014
He is an Advisory Committee member of Southern Railways, contributing ideas to making the Railways accessible. He is also a member on the District level Coordination Committee.
Down but not out
“Many disabled girls/women like me come forward to assist PwDs and strengthen our bonds so that we can enjoy the fruitfulness of life.” –Hemalatha
Hemalatha, aged 25, hails from Tiruvallur District of Tamil Nadu. Having secured a Diploma in Computer Engineering, she worked for some time in a private company before being forced to resign due to her limited mobility. She went through a period of depression as she did not like being confined to the four walls of her home.
Her meeting with Vasantham Disabled Person’s Organisation (DPO) opened new vistas. She organised the Disabled Person’s Organisation (DPO) in her village and was elected its President. She was trained as a leader and even obtained a Scooty from the Government with the help of the Vasantham Federation. This increased her mobility and boosted her confidence.
Fired with the passion to help those in similar condition, she visited the neighbouring villages and organised the persons with disability (PwDs) into DPOs. She has single handedly organised 12 Village DPOs (VDPOs) in Ellapuram Block. She became a known face among the PwDs. She helps them harness the entitlements and welfare schemes from the Government and other Community Service Organisations.
Seeing her dedication to the cause of persons with disability, Vasantham Federation entrusted to her care the home based support of 30 CP children – for a stipend of Rs. 4,500 per month.
A person with good articulation and advocacy skills, she was elected President of the Ellapuram Block level DPO Federation which consists of 32 VDPOs (325 PWDs). After three months she was elected Vice President of the Vasantham District level Disabled Person’s Organisation (DDPO) which has 10,070 members as on date. She is now playing an active role in the DDPO.