Joy and Karen shared from their personal experiences in the States and in India and spoke on the importance of disability awareness and advocacy in church communities. Jon showed his film and articulated a very moving message of the value of building up quadriplegics in India (like our friends Riya and Rahul) and empowering them to pursue their aspirations despite the physical and social challenges. We filmed Jon’s talk and should try to post it on the ESCIP website in the future because I think it really captured the heart of this growing network’s purpose.
Our friend Raman (the up-start social worker connected with many quads in the Delhi, specifically with Riya) also had a chance to share his experience. This was particularly encouraging because the main point of this conference was to engage with the city’s Christian community to motivate and mobilize more loving laborers like Raman.
In the past year Raman has committed himself to meeting every week with Riya and her family, as well as many others like her. It has been because of the care and respect he has shown Riya, that her family has been motivated to invest more fully in her future. With his help they have bought a computer to allow Riya to communicate with quads across India, hired a tutor to continue her schooling at home, and made arrangements for her to play with the Indian national wheelchair rugby team (although this team has fragmented since the international tournament in November).
The lesson that Raman has taught us is that recovering quads need consistent encouraging relationships once they leave the hospital. Of course, this now seems like an obvious truth now but it is not so easy to put into practice. Jon experienced this community with the members of his wheelchair rugby team in Connecticut because he was easily able to get out of his own house and spend time with other quads. However, many people with the same level of injury in India find themselves more isolated because of accessibility issues and thus need selfless friends like Raman to put forth the effort to visit them.
By the way, Raman’s only income as a social worker comes from donations made to the International Humanitarian Foundation (the partner organization is collecting donations with the Sigworths). On the ESCIP website (www.escip.org) there is more information about the IHF and how others can contribute. If anyone reading this is ever interested in helping out I would say that after spending time with Raman, Riya, Rahul, and the many hospitals and churches we’ve visited, donating to IHF is probably the most direct and worthwhile way to contribute.
Jon and Vicky are able to do a lot of good during their visits to India but it is really those living and working here permanently that can have the greatest impact on the many quadriplegics they have met. Raman is an exceedingly humble, diligent, and loving man and is a perfect example of this idea. With God’s guidance, more men and women will emerge from among the seemingly eager and passionate conference participants today to support the larger community of disabled people in Delhi and beyond.
Before closing, I should also mention that on Friday ISIC arranged a showing of “More Than Walking” for patients and members of the press. Riya and Rahul came to the hospital to join Jon and a couple ISIC staff members for a panel discussion after the screening. Representatives from several local newspapers (as well as one national agency) were very eager to question Jon and will hopefully produce stories that make the needs and efforts of the disabled community (and ISIC) known to a wider population.
So now that we are through the excitement of the last two days we hope our Sunday will be a bit more restful. Joy and Karen will be departing on Monday (we will only see them again briefly in a couple weeks) while Jon, Vicky, and I will remain at ISIC until Wednesday.
Sorry for the length of this post, I waited too long to write since my last update (but also wanted to give the necessary attention to Raman and the promotion of more pseudo-social workers). More pictures of this last week will be coming soon. We wish you all the best this new week wherever you might be!
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
(someone imprinted these verses in Raman’s mind)
1. mingling after the disability conference
2. Raman (right) during a visit with Rahul and his brother, Rohit
3. Jon is a much more reluctant celebrity than the press hoped for
4. while everyone else was busy changing the world this week, I was getting cricket lessons from Rohit