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These friends banded together in the aftermath of the Kerala floods to help people with disabilities

A new NGO in Kerala called FIRRE aims to provide medical care and rehabilitation to people with disabilities. Formed by three childhood friends, it aims to sensitise the world at large about the community.

The devastating floods in Kerala was the trigger for Foundation for International Rehabilitation, Research and Empowerment (FIRRE). The brainchild of three friends, FIRRE has been working in a concerted way towards the welfare of disabled people for about a year now.

It all started during the Kerala floods when the founders realised that many people with disabilities were struggling for medical care and other kinds of help. People from economically backward families were especially badly off. That gave the founders the motivation to come together and work for the welfare of the underprivileged.

In months to come, we want to create mass awareness about disabilities and facilitate a social change and public level awareness. We have been actively involved in a few programmes for people from disabled community. That has given us more confidence to go ahead. -Dr Sindhu Vijayakumar, Co-Founder, FIREE

FIRRE has done a range of activities until now like a trip to the beach for wheelchair users. They took about 40 wheelchair users recently and this was a novel experience for many. They also held a New Year event called Karunya Sangamam, where almost 1,000 disabled people came together from different parts of Kerala to celebrate the day.

Just recently, they held a trip to the famous Thrissur Pooram, an annual temple festival of Kerala. Almost 20 wheelchair users and other people with disabilities visited the Pooram for the first time. They are also raising funds to purchase assistive devices for people with disabilities.

Currently, there are almost 18 members who are working closely with FIRRE. They plan to expand their venture soon. FIRRE has tied up with many NGOs and voluntary organisations across Kerala to whom they can reach out when help is required for people with disabilities. A disabled person who approaches FIRRE will be directed to the right centre that can offer service to the individual.

"In my last 20 years of career as a doctor, I have understood that there is a lack of awareness about disabilities in our society. In fact, people do not know anything about what disabilities are. They just want to repeat the already existent concepts about disabilities. Awareness and empowerment is the key, says Dr Vijayakumar.

Nirmal Bhaskar, co-Founder and chairman, FIRRE, feels this is a way for the organisation to give back to society. "During the floods, we reached out to many people with disabilities. That is when I realised that I need to do my bit for the society. It has been a great feeling to work with team of FIRRE. Recently, we took wheelchair users to a beach and they were seeing a beach for the first time".

Co-founder Arun Kumar T , says the NGO wants to look at creating accessibility in a major way. "The feeling of helping someone is always great. At FIRRE, we are working towards creating accessibility. I need to give back something to the society, says Kumar.

ALSO READ: Anuprayaas is making railway stations inclusive & accessible for visually impaired people

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