Where there’s life, there’s always hope

Meera Siva Nalinakanthi V Chennai | Updated on January 23, 2018 Published on August 20, 2015

Preethi Srinivasan

Preethi Srinivasan

Preethi Srinivasan is a woman ‘uninterrupted’

Preethi Srinivasan could surely draw parallels between her life, and that of the renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. She was an able-bodied, active individual – a national-level swimmer and state cricket player – until an accident in 1998 left her paralysed from the neck down. But, thanks to her supportive family and inner strength, she is coping well. As the founder of Soulfree, a non-profit that works for raising awareness on the plight of those bound to wheelchairs, Preethi has her work cut out for her. Her role as a motivational speaker earns her a voluntary payment which goes directly to the non-profit and is used to support those with spinal cord injury.

Currently 18 people who are in dire financial need are given a monthly stipend of ₹1,000 each. Preethi says that the one-year support is not going to change their lives, but it imparts the message “we value you.” The emotional angst of those confined to wheelchairs due to paralysis is greater more than their physical pains. “Many disabled people are subjected to hurtful jibes, even from their own families. In such times, knowing that you are not alone, is a great comfort,” she says.

Preethi, who in her spare time, writes movie reviews from her home, using speech recognition software, says “If you are disabled, going to school or college is not easy. Public places are not accessible by wheelchair. One is confined to his/her home and suffers untold misery,” she adds. In some cases, the families – due to poverty or lack of caretakers – even push the disabled to commit suicide. “The main goal is to help people like myself, who are ordinarily faced with a murky future, by setting up a rehabilitation centre, because without our families, we have nowhere to go” she states.

She says that in many cases spinal injuries are preventable. “Wrong handling of the injured person often causes spinal cord damage after the accident”, she observes. And families too need a lot of moral support in dealing with the trauma and coping with the lack of a support system in our society. For instance, there is no reliable home-care support; no training or job opportunities provided for those affected; and there are no long-term care and living options.

 Preethi is doing her part to increase awareness at the right places, such as with govt health department officials. She is also asking for detailed statistics on the disabled population, especially with regard to those with spinal injuries, under RTI. “In a country of 1.2 billion people, it is easy to forget the few millions who need life-long support,” she notes. But are we so paralysed by our desire for economic prosperity that we will not be moved?

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Published on August 20, 2015
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