Cassandra Rotolo & Tom Kerr 2016-08-26 13:38:17
People with Disabilities Empowered in India The child of a farming family in Gujarat, India, Jyotsana Nisarta was only 2 years old when she contracted polio. Jyotsana’s mother, already living with her own disabilities, was determined to minimize the effects of the disease on her daughter. Yet even with medical intervention, Jyotsana was left with considerable visual impairment. Throughout her childhood, Jyotsana excelled in school. Opportunities are often limited for people with disabilities in India, so Jyotsana remained dependent on her family. Determined to work, she enrolled in a primary teachers training course. Jyotsana was disappointed when she was not selected to become a teacher because her test score had fallen just one point short, but she remained positive. That’s when the Blind Welfare Council in Dahod changed her life. The Blind Welfare Council changed her life. The council provides advocacy and primary education for children with special needs as well as vocational training for children and adults so they can live independently. The vocational training includes both computer use and various skilled handcrafts. The Lions of District 323-F1 have supported the Blind Welfare Council for more than 10 years. With support from a US$63,000 grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF), Lions helped to expand the council’s vocational training center. The council was able to take on more computer trainees and introduced tailoring, carpentry, Braille printing and offset printing programs. About 100 people each year will be trained for respected and well-paying jobs. Jyotsana enrolled in the council’s computer training course. In only a matter of months, she completed the course and immediately was hired as a computer operator. Happy with her job, she made Rs 2,500 each month (US$36). The skills she learned in her classes at the Council enabled her to further her career, and Jyotsana soon was hired for a government job. She takes photos and thumbprints and issue identification cards to members of her community. Her monthly income has nearly doubled, which enables her to help her family as well as pay her own living expenses. Together with Lions and LCIF, the Blind Welfare Council is empowering people with mental and physical disabilities throughout Dahod. Learn how your district can make difference in your community. The Blind Welfare Council provides educational opportunities to children and adults with mental and physical disabilities throughout Dahod. A Rising Tide Lifts All Kayaks BY TOM KERR AND CASSANDRA ROTOLO Leaser Lake in eastern Pennsylvania, 45-feet deep before unrelenting seepage, eventually became a kind of ghost lake. By 2001, the 120-acre, man-made lake was an eerie landscape of weeds, small trees and even pieces of an old farm that was swallowed when the lake was filled in the 1960s. Attempts to fix the seepage failed, and the surrounding park was mothballed. The Leaser Lake Heritage Foundation (LLHF) labored for years to get several government entities to supply nearly $5 million—enough to repair the dam and refill the lake. The repairs were completed in 2015. Bringing life back to the park became much more than just filling the lake with water. LLHF had big dreams for Leaser Lake: it hoped to provide recreation opportunities to those who otherwise found them just out of reach. It wanted individuals with limited mobility to be able to explore lakeside paths, fish from a floating dock or even slip into a kayak for a paddle on the water. But those were expensive dreams. Mike White uses the adaptive kayak launcher at Leaser Lake as Lion Tom Kerrlooks on. Lion Tom Kerr, a foundation board member, presented a plan to raise the money to fellow Lions who shared his affinity for Leaser Lake. The lake is a source of pride for locals in the sleepy but picturesque farmland. The plan called for a park fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Its trails, picnic tables, toilets and parking would be accessible to those with disabilities. The Kempton Lions Club committed to raising money to fund a fishing pier and a kayak launcher. The LLHF committed to several other pieces of the puzzle. There was nothing like this within 100 miles. The idea of facilitating positive, unique outdoor experiences for people with limited mobility energized the Lions. There was nothing like this within 100 miles of Kempton. Over two years, the Kempton Lions, aided by the neighboring Ontelaunee Lions Club, generated more than $7,000 through fundraising. Meanwhile, Kerr applied for grants from the Lions of Pennsylvania Foundation and Lions Clubs International Foundation, garnering US$49,500—enough to pay for the fishing pier and launcher. The Lions and LLHF worked with a local manufacturer and an engaged group of local adaptive kayakers. The athletes tested prototypes at the manufacturer’s facility and at the lake. “In the process of developing the boat launcher, I had a greater understanding of the limitations of a wheelchairbound person, as well as many things an able-bodied person takes for granted,” admits Kerr. “Understanding the impact this project has on the lives of those with mobility issues makes this project very gratifying.” The project was dedicated in October 2015. During the inauguration ceremony, Mike White, who has spina bifida, rolled his wheelchair down the gangway with ease and paddled off into the open water. “It is liberating. One of the nicest feelings is to look and feel like everybody else,” White says. Sporting his yellow vest, Kerr beamed with pride at what Lions achieved. “I hope this project, done by a small group of people, can serve as a testament to other small clubs that they, too, can do big projects.” Extra Digital Content Watch a video about the Leaser Lake project: .
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