On July 26th, at the 15th annual Miracle of Mobility gala, we celebrated stories of lives transformed by the gift of a wheelchair.
One of the stories began in 2001 in a suburb of Chennai, India, where we gave away our first four wheelchairs. There, we met Indra, a young woman who was 16 years old at the time.
She had contracted polio as a child and could not walk. Her parents couldn’t afford to provide the care she needed, so they put her in a home for children living with physical and mental challenges in hopes she would receive therapy to walk.
Sadly, her body did not respond to the therapy.
Indra was not receiving an education, either. While we were in India, we visited a mission order called the Claretians. It took us over an hour to convince them that we intended to give our wheelchairs away for free. Finally, we got through to them. The priests gave one of our wheelchairs to a man named Selvin because they heard he was starting a new type of home—a school inspired by Indra, as Selvin learned of her a desire and appetite to learn. Selvin gave this one GEN_1 wheelchair to Indra.
Indra moved into this home and diligently began to study, with Selvin’s help. She sent in an application to go to high school, and when she and Selvin received an acceptance letter, they were overcome with joy.
On the first day of school, Indra arrived with Selvin and a parade of supporters cheering her on, proud of her accomplishments. However, when school administrators saw her coming in a wheelchair, they ran out to stop her and her entourage.
The reason? They never had a student in a wheelchair before, and all the classrooms were on the second floor.
After a prolonged, heated, tearful discussion on the sidewalk, with neither side yielding, the headmaster took notice and came out to offer a solution. “I can tell this young girl is determined to be a student in this school, and I have a hunch she will excel,” he said. “I will move my office to the second floor, move her home room to my office, and if she needs to get to the second floor, I am sure her fellow students will carry her.”
Indra was able to graduate from high school and go on to college. She graduated in 2007 with a degree in computer science; then, she went on to earn her Master’s Degree in Computer Education in 2010.
That’s not the end of the story. Indra has such a strong desire to help children with special needs that she is now back to school to equip herself with a degree in special education. She works at a new home that Selvin built to serve more children with special needs. This new home is called Prem Illam, which means “home of love.”
This is what the gift of a wheelchair can do.
This is why we continue to do what we do, and we couldn’t do it without you.
At Miracle of Mobility, we celebrated one million stories since 2001—and one million more stories to come. Thank you for being part of this journey, helping more people like Indra write new chapters in their lives.