Rehabilitating the disabled in rural communities

Suchismita Majumdar (50) has dedicated her life's work to empowering people with disabilities living in rural areas. Her passion for such work is driven by her own personal story of contracting polio at an early age. She underwent several corrective surgeries, but still suffers a locomotor disability. This physical challenge has taught her the importance of self-advocacy and given her impetus to understand the special needs of the disabled living in Assam, India.

 In 1997, Suchismita founded Swabalambi, a community-based organization dedicated to rehabilitation of the disabled in rural communities. The organization works to promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of physically and mentally challenged people, while also providing training needed to help them be self-sufficient and active members in their communities. Swabalambi offers invaluable services including medical assessment and corrective surgeries for those in need. In addition, Suchismita has organized many programs including: early intervention and prevention of disabilities, health camps in rural communities, family counseling and guidance, special educators, and self-help groups among parents.

Convinced that social and economic opportunities for disabled individuals are both humanitarian and economic, Suchismita has also set up training centers for disabled youth to develop prevocational and vocational skills. Children and adolescents with mild and moderate mental retardation receive prevocational training, which includes learning basic counting, the identification of shapes, sizes and colors, concepts of time and money, and how to sort raw materials. And children and adolescents dealing with mild and moderate physical disabilities are given an opportunity to develop design and technical skills in vocations such as cane bamboo and jute crafts, handloom weaving on Jacquard machines, tailoring and machine embroidery, and soft toy construction. With great empathy and innovation, Suchismita has created income-earning opportunities for the disabled – demonstrating that they, like her, have abilities that can be tapped into to create meaningful productive lives. Many trained through her programs have become breadwinners in their families.

Beyond helping disabled individuals become self-sufficient and active members of society, Suchismita has brought companionship to many by arranging marriages between disabled partners as well as among disabled and non-disabled partners.