At age 16, Naseema Hurzuk lost use of the lower half of her body. From being a chirpy junior college student she could not even turn around in her bed, after an accident. Wheelchair-bound, her days were spent crying and thinking of suicide. From the depths of her pain and helplessness, she turned her life around. She battled repeated rejections, insurmountable difficulties and humiliations, and along with Rajani Karkare, who was afflicted with Polio, she jointly founded the organisation called Helpers of the Handicapped.
This was almost 21 years ago in Kolhapur. Their idea was to make medical treatment accessible and affordable, also to rehabilitate physically challenged people in the society, given their special needs and
abilities. They now have an integrated residential school, a treatment centre, a rehab centre, a vocational training centre, a gas agency (to sustain their finances so that they need not wholly depend upon donations and charity), experimental activities in small-scale sector and an integrated village at Morai, near Kudal.
They emphasise early detection and treatment, also make/manufacture crutches, etc to make them available at minimum costs, teach agri-based occupations and value-additions to these students so that challenged children can grow up to be physically as well as financially independent. They have so far helped 12,130 physically challenged (the type of handicap is not a limitation because they have integrated facilities) to get over the handicap and live their lives with dignity and independence. Their rehab efforts so far have been to the tune of Rs 3.4 crore.
The day to day affairs are run by Mr PD Deshpande, as secretary, who took VRS from a nationalized bank to be able to do this. Though Dr Naseema Hurzuk is herself wheelchair bound, she has let nothing come between her ambition to ensure that her physically challenged students achieve their full potential.
Through her relentless energy and inspiring fight against all odds, to single handedly build, what is among the nation's largest organisations for the physically challenged, she has become a role model not only for the handicapped but for anyone who has had the opportunity to see her work.
She says her greatest joy is in seeing these children make it in life, to see them do all the things they could only dream of and to overcome the rejection and humiliation they may have gone through.