Orthopaedic equipment is expensive — wheelchairs cost thousands and even lakhs of rupees, while even a simple pair of crutches can tot up to a few hundred. But more important is the fact that most of the time, this equipment has a short-term use. Falguni Doshi of Vadodara has come up with an innovative way of recycling the equipment while helping the needy.
It all started when Falguni visited her friend Sonal in Vadodara. The latter’s grandmother had recently recovered from a prolonged illness and was no longer in need of her wheelchair and walker, which were now lying useless and discarded around the house.
This is when Falguni came up with the idea of recycling the equipment to help the needy. Soon, the two friends had come up with a plan to rent it out for Re. 1 a day.
Project ‘Helping Hand’ was born in 1999 with just four pieces of orthopaedic equipment.
Over the years, donations poured in as many people don’t have much use for wheelchairs, transport chairs, walkers, canes, knee and ankle and neck braces, etc., after the immediate need for them is over. Falguni would rent them out on a regular basis as the demand for them kept growing with each passing day.
“It was just a simple idea. We didn’t expect it to be so successful. It has been about 16 years and I receive at least two to three queries every day even now. I have rented out thousands of pieces of equipment,” says Falguni.
Sonal had to drop out of the project due to personal commitments, but Helping Hand soon became more than a part-time commitment for Falguni. News about the work she was doing spread by word of mouth and many needy people began to approach her for renting the equipment she had.
Falguni takes the entire cost of the equipment as deposit from the clients. This amount is refunded when the customer returns the equipment.
Most people rent the equipment for a couple of weeks or months at a time.
“Earlier, I used to give these things away for free. But then I thought people would not value things given as charity or take care of the equipment. This way people take it seriously and I get to buy more products too,” she says.
Most of the products are donated to Helping Hand by those who don’t need them any more, while some are purchased brand new by Falguni.
For those who cannot afford to pay the deposit, the orthopaedic items are given on just a rental basis. “It is quite flexible. Our main idea was to put the unused equipment to some use and to help those in need. So we do not care if someone is unable to pay the deposit. What matters to us is that we are able to help them,” says Falguni.
Today, Helping Hand receives queries from across Gujarat. But Falguni has restricted her work to only Vadodara as of now.
“Right now I don’t have the capacity to scale up since I am the only one running the show. But my family members support me as much as they can,” she says.
Although the work has been running smoothly for the most part, Falguni has occasionally faced hurdles in the form of clients who return damaged equipment without informing her.
“I figure it out when I am giving it to someone else. Also, many people do not take responsibility for the damage and I have to face the loss,” she says.
But these problems do not affect Falguni who is deeply attached to some of her customers — they often come to her for a friendly chat or when they need a shoulder to lean on.
“Many times, these people are frustrated with their sickness. They have already shared the details with their family and friends. But I am a new person to them, and since I work in this field I understand them. They feel very close to me and share their issues with me. I feel so overwhelmed by all the love that I receive,” says Falguni.
Falguni recalls a very touching moment when she received a call from a man named Mr. Gupta. His mother had just expired after a long illness and he had heard about Helping Hand. He called Falguni to donate all his mother’s orthopaedic equipment.
“All those products were imported and of very high quality. When he came here to donate them, he was so touched by our work that he donated some money too so that we can buy more things. His gesture will not only touch so many lives but it also gave me a boost that I was doing something good,” says Falguni.
So if you know someone who needs orthopaedic support in Vadodara, Falguni is there to help. And if you have spare equipment at your place, then you know how to put it to better use.
For more details, contact Falguni at – firstname.lastname@example.org