- Parkin Fellows
What did you do as soon as you got out of bed this morning? Chances are that you stood up and walked somewhere, probably in search of something to eat. But this simple action, getting up and walking around with ease, is one which isn’t so simple for the tens of millions of lower-limb amputees around the world.
For them, performing simple actions, like kicking a ball, walking to school, going for a hike, or playing with their children, can be a daunting, terrifying and even dangerous task. Not only must these individuals face the physical challenges that their conditions lay upon them, but they are also forced to move past societal preconceptions and stigmas regarding their disability. Often times, amputees are discriminated against in the workplace, amongst friends, and even in their own families.
During the first half of my Parkin Fellowship, I traveled to Jaipur, India to understand more about the plight of Indian amputees living under the poverty line and tried to devise new methods to aid in their rehabilitation. While there, I volunteered with the multinational Jaipur Foot Organization (B.M.V.S.S.), a non-profit group which provides prosthetic limbs and subsequent medical treatments to poverty-stricken, disabled patients from all around the world completely free of charge. Working with more than 25 countries and countless communities, the B.M.V.S.S. not only provides medical aid, but also social and vocational rehabilitation, providing a space for their patients to connect with the struggles of others, giving them assistance in finding work and inspiring them with the knowledge that someone really cares.
Upon my arrival at the B.M.V.S.S., I was surprised at how simple and modest the headquarters were, despite the institution’s renowned status. Everything was done as frugally as possible, so as to increase the efficiency of spending in order to create the most significant impact possible. Despite Jaipur’s scorching summer temperatures, the center had no central air conditioning system, but rather used funds to help feed and shelter their patients who had traveled from far off lands and could not afford accommodations in the touristy city. The organization’s tireless work ethic and altruistic procedures are reflected not only in the simplicity of the center itself but also in the way its staff treats the patients themselves. Many of the individuals who actually fit and sculpt the Jaipur Limb appliances are beneficiaries of the institution’s treatment themselves, and their powerful example of tenacity and selflessness not only inspire average people around the world but also help to reshape the worldview of the patients themselves. By seeing someone like themselves who has risen above their circumstances to create a life of meaning and impact, the patients are given hope to live in self-improvement rather than self-pity. Often times, in all of our lives, we tend to take our trivially “awful” situations and make them worse by simply pitying ourselves rather than being constructive, but these patients and staff, with their limitless kindness, optimism, and solidarity with one another, truly showed me what was possible when we see the silver lining.