In Conversation with Dr. Tsering Dorje, Manger, Rewa society Ladakh 

By Deachen Spaldon Leh, Jan 16, 2023
Leh :

Q. Give us a brief introduction about the organization- Rewa society.

Rewa Society is an NGO founded in 2003 by a German doctor- Karola Wood. During her visit to Lingshed, she met a family having a child with cerebral palsy. Determined to help the child, she visited again the following year with volunteers from Germany when she realized many more children were left untreated and needed help that’s when the idea of Rewa society came into being. The dedicated volunteering work of doctors from Germany took place each year. In 2008, the registration of the organization was done officially. 

Our organization sent people to Delhi for professional training, fully sponsored in the initial period. Frequent visits were made to far-flung areas in Changthang, Nubra, etc – to identify the cases and create awareness. This ultimately led to the formation of Rewa society as an institution in Leh. As the number of cases in Kargil was much larger than in Leh, in 2010, the organization expanded its foothold in Kargil in collaboration with a private school- Munshi Habibullah, they provided us the space to start the institution here.

Q. How does the organization function?

The services provided by the NGO work in two categories- community-based and institution-based. On the community level rehab services are provided to everyone of all age categories. Equipment such as hearing aid, crutches, wheelchairs, etc of high quality is provided. Proper guidance is also given to people. Surgical intervention is also part of the work whereby we collaborate with government district hospitals that provide OTs for surgeries. In addition to that, medical facilities such as types of equipment and surgeons are provided free of cost by NGO called ISHWAR based in Delhi.

On an institutional level, more focus is given to the children. As physical rehabilitation was not enough, timely intervention in the field of education was necessary as well. We prioritize moral education first. A complete transformation in the children’s behavior and their thinking was seen once we introduced uniforms for them. Knowing that they have to get ready in the morning, and change into uniforms made them feel the same as other children. Keeping inclusivity in mind, during holidays a family project is given where both child and parents have to actively participate and finish the project by the end of the holidays. The main aim of this project is to prevent negligence of the children and enhance focus on them. 

In 2019, we collaborated with the Indian army to open a rehabilitation center in the Batalik sector – a region that is most neglected. After the ground-level survey and assessment were done, the Indian army provided a rehab center at Dartsik while technical and equipment facilities have been provided by us.

Q. Accessibility in Leh city for disabled people is an issue. How do you see it and what needs to be done? 

Indeed accessibility is the biggest problem and a disabled-friendly environment is almost none in the city. Be it any offices, schools, toilets, or footpaths accessibility is nil, which is leading to further exclusion of disabled people from society. Even if ramps are found in certain places, they are not of a specific ratio which is hard for anyone to use. One of our plans – a pilot project is to modify ten houses for these children by building disabled-friendly ramps, toilets, etc (while maintaining the international ratio) next year. Our aim is for children to be less dependent on their families and hope that people will get inspired and decide to bring this change themselves. 

Together with the administration-education department, many activities/ program has been done. For instance, a Mega sports event for disabled students was organized recently. Other than that there are teachers from the education department who have been appointed to specialize in this sector. With more such support, this community can get a lot of help, and children can excel in various fields too.

Q. How much awareness do you see among the people regarding the plight of this community?

Attention deficit is a problem seen among a lot of children. Parents don’t seem to accept this and due to fear of social stigmas, they tend to become ignorant. In reality, these children need special care as well, which is why we stress early intervention in this organization. Initially, when the assessments were taking place, not many families came forward and opened up. In Kargil, the scenario was worse, which has taken a drastic positive shift now. People voluntarily bring forth their children to get help now. Our community-level awareness program solely focuses on the inclusiveness of the children. In this NGO- 35 children are being brought regularly by the transport facility provided for them. The state-level awareness program is also there to focus on the future of children post-matriculation. In this regard, a plan is to set up an institution for various skill development training and other income generation work based on the interest of a child. 

We have seen that in many programs or any event, the focus is on the children only. No one addresses the stress and anxiety that the parents must be going through. For this, a counseling unit is to be set up with professional psychologists. Together with the handloom department, we have appointed a trainer to train the mothers of these children- with various skills such as knitting, tailoring, etc. so that they can also have a source of income generation while taking care of their children.

Q. What are the future goals and plans of REWA?

We are planning to set up a comprehensive therapy center on a government-allotted land, where people with all sorts of disabilities can come and avail of the services. This center will have a space for a counseling unit to check on the mental health of the students as well as their parents.

Also as I mentioned earlier a plan to set up an institution for skill-developing centers is to be done next year. Our pilot project of modifying ten houses of children with disabilities is to be implemented next year as well. Along with teachers appointed by the education department and our special educators, we are trying to provide the best education to the children. More discussions and plans with various stakeholders are in the process to bring about more improvements. 

Message to the readers

“We need to come up as a society as a whole and bring change if not by actively participating but by being aware of the importance of inclusivity of disabled people. An inclusive and properly accessible environment in any school is also requisite. To limit the challenges, active collaborations between various organizations and government is the need of the hour. Among all, the most important is early intervention – so that they can have hopes for a brighter future.”