Immobile Dr. Naseema Hurzuk runs the country's most ideal organization for the physically challenged people. She has won many national and international awards. Her motivational journey is included in the Maharashtra state education curriculum.
Please watch a short video on her life journey but don't miss to read her full interview with Inspirational Beings team to know her battle for the self esteem of disabled people and her outstanding contribution in the field of social service.
Tell us about your background & education?
I was born in September 1950 at Solapur, India. I was sixth in eight children of my parents. I was a happy, active girl having a keen interest in sports and cultural activities. Since my childhood, I used to face a backache, but local doctors could not help in analyzing the cause, and later I was diagnosed with paraplegia at the tender age of 16 years and my lower body became paralyzed. I completed my education in Arts. My parents taught ethical values in us, and they were my great support.
What are some of the critical challenges you handled after being Paraplegic? How did you overcome those challenges?
After my diagnosis when the doctor mentioned it was too late to recuperate, and I will be entirely and permanently bonded to a wheelchair, I was shocked and dismayed even to react. My father who was my most robust support, could not bear the shock of me being permanently handicapped, and he passed away by a heart attack. Our family became emotionally and financially weaker due to the sudden demise of the only breadwinner. At that time no physical movement was possible for me; I needed the help of people even to change my sleeping position. The traumatic situation of losing my strength, my father and the feeling of being dependent and handicapped was depleting me. I left my education as I thought how could a permanent disable person can complete his studies. The thought of suicides swirled through mind many times as I never wanted to be a burden on the family.
I was lucky to meet Shri Babu Kaka Diwan a paraplegic who ran his industry and drove his car. My life completely got turned for betterment after meeting him. First I was surprisingly shocked to see him happy and smiling as till then I had formed a belief that disabled people can only be in grief and sorrow. When he saw my sufferings, he mentioned that when you can't sustain your sorrow, you should look at the sufferings of people who are in a more challenging situation and support them. With his motivation I could restart my life, I overcame my agony and completed my graduation. I got a job in the Central Excise Department later I was promoted to the position of Deputy Office Superintendent.
Why you thought of creating the helpers of the handicapped mission?
I participated in the “Stock Mandeville Games" for the disabled held in London in 1973. When I was in London, I met disabled people from all over the world. I was startled seeing the facilities for the disabled people in developed countries. They looked very confident in leading an independent life. I decided to work for the physically disabled. We started 'Helpers of the Handicapped, Kolhapur' in 1983 with my close friend Rajani Karkare Deshpande. My friends and I used to support our NGO activities for physically challenged people from our salaries, but later I resigned from my job to take up 'Helpers' work full time.
Tell us about the mission and how it has helped society?
We are a Not-for-Profit organization working towards a complete rehabilitation of individuals with disabilities since 1984. Education, Health Care and Empowerment of persons with disabilities from across the country is our core objective. Initially, we made the list of all the disabled in the nearby villages and worked on the most critical cases, but now people get admitted from across the country. We run many activities for physically challenged people like running rehab center, full fledged school. Vocational training center and many businesses to make them self sufficient.
Handicapped friendly Hostels : This facility at present houses 110 male and female school and college students, vocational trainees, and staff members
Samarth Vidya Mandir school : For physically challenged and non-disabled boys and girls from economically backward rural areas
Professional training center: a fully fledged workshop for school drop-outs. We give vocational training to by which they can earn their bread and live with dignity.
Professional Training center: Making handicapped financially independent by deploying them in the processing up to 350 tons of raw cashew per year. We also grow fruits like banana, mango, papaya, coconuts, betel nuts and reduce our operational cost. These activities have given them confidence, and many handicapped are leading a happy married life with healthy children.
Your best & worst experiences while running this mission?
Once we needed money for the surgery of a talented boy who had great creativity but was completely handicapped, after trying and appealing many organizations we couldn’t generate financial aid, but one social institution of people suffering from leprosy came forward to support his medical expenses. Humanity and compassion shown by People who were kept out of the mainstream and were hated by society because of their appearances left us ecstatic and speechless.
The world example is when our doctors were operating a ten-year disabled girl from impoverished and uneducated strata of society passed away due to epilepsy attack while doing the operation. None of us in our NGO including the doctor were told the fact that she had epilepsy. Her parents and we all were in deep anguish as we had never expected this outcome.
How do you motivate yourself in your low times?
I remind myself about learning from one instance of my school days. I had participated in a group dance in our village while performing dance stage collapsed; all my friends were nervous and sad as despite our practice we couldn't deliver the performance and have lost on the prize. I collected the courage and spoke to organizers and explained to them that it was not our mistake and all the efforts of our group will be in vain. They understood us and gave the chance to perform. We won first prize. That instance taught me, don't give up even if you fail. Rise and fight, and you will surely succeed. I also remember the teaching of my mentor Babukaka Diwan: working towards lessening the pain and sorrows of underprivileged.
Tell us about the challenges you faced in this journey?
We run this NGO without any grant from the government. Now after 36 years of work, our operations have stabilized, and we have become self-sufficient. People sometimes try to push us for their ulterior intentions, and it hurts.
What is your mantra in life?
Do you work selflessly and keep believing in the supreme power. Work hard in your capacity, don't leave anything undone for tomorrow. Have a compassionate heart and support wholeheartedly who are struggling to live.
What are you plans ahead?
I am 69 years old, and since I am single, I feel who will run this mission after me? There is so much to do for vulnerable handicapped who feel dying is much easier than living. I want to create my succession plan . Our government needs to work for supporting handicapped like developed nations and I am working towards this change.