Anmol isn’t your average teenager. At 19, she manages her family’s grocery store in the suburbs of Delhi. As if this weren’t enough, she has overcome cerebral palsy and inspired entire communities. This is her story.
Nineteen years ago, a little girl was born in suburban Delhi. Money may have been in short supply, but her family had love in plenty. They named her Anmol (invaluable) and lavished her with utmost care and attention. She was a happy baby.
As time passed however, the family began to worry. Anmol had difficulty sitting up and swallowing, she remained underweight, wracked by spasms, and did not seem to gain strength despite their best efforts.
Tests at the local government hospital determined that she had cerebral palsy – a permanent movement disorder. The family was distraught. Try as they might, they could not afford her treatment.
They took to keeping their small grocery store open until all hours, manning it in shifts to gather money to consult with specialists.
“Years and years passed with us feeling completely helpless,” says Poonam, her mother. “It broke our hearts to see our little girl struggling. We didn’t know where to turn, and the money always ran out quicker than we could make it. We had all but given up hope when Riya came to visit.”
Riya is an outreach officer with the Plan India supported Muskan (smile) programme, implemented in partnership with Anchal Charitable Trust. Dedicated to improving the lives of children with special needs, Riya and the team began by conducting surveys in various localities of Delhi.
Since then, the team has reached out to over 1,200 children with special needs through six resource, rehabilitation, and information centres across the city. They provide a host of services, including family counselling, specialised treatment and physical therapy, educational support, home modifications, and other government-issue social entitlements.
On their first visit to the centre, both Poonam and Anmol underwent counselling, and the latter was fitted for a custom wheelchair and orthotics (metal braces and shoes). She was enrolled in occupational therapy to increase her mobility and reduce her pain. The Muskan team installed aids and appliances in their home for added convenience.
With patience and determination, Anmol began to sit unassisted, brush her teeth, feed herself, and study basic education courses. The organisation trained Poonam to provide necessary care and support to ensure her treatment continued smoothly.
Today, the love and support have completely transformed Anmol. Beaming, she manages the family store, and has tripled their customer base. Even so, she takes time out to visit the centre, continue her therapy, and encourage her friends there.
As for Poonam, she is now a lead community volunteer for Muskan and manages ten children with special needs.
She is, by far, every child’s favourite – an honour and a matter of great pride.
Inspired by the changes she has seen in Anmol, Poonam conducts therapy with the children, counsels families, and advocates with communities and local leaders for their rights.
“I ensure the children know they are not alone. That together, we can overcome every hurdle, no matter how daunting. That they have a future all their own,” says Poonam.
“Every child deserves to be healthy and happy,” adds Anmol. “With the children, our families, and Muskan, we forge ahead every day.”
This International Day of Persons with Disabilities, join us in celebrating Anmol, Poonam, Riya, and other such inspiring heroes the world over. Champions with indomitable spirit, they are changing the world, one step at a time.
To learn more about Plan India and their work, kindly visit their project page here.