Pooja has an infectious smile and loves playing with her friends. She was born after a full term pregnancy, but immediately after birth it became clear that she had a disability.
Her father, Akosh, explains:
“She was so weak. Pooja had absolutely no strength. She has three older siblings, so I knew that things weren’t right.”
“Life became very difficult for the family. The cost of medicines and getting to appointments are very costly. As a farmer, I was already borrowing money from the moneylenders to buy chemicals for the farm. I got into debt but had to find money for my precious Pooja. I felt desperate.”
“One day in the village, I got chatting to two field-workers from Naman Seva Samiti. They explained that they had seen me around with Pooja and said that they might be able to help.” They told me that about a project they were running around organic farming. At first I was sceptical, but when they told me that I could save money and be free from the money lenders, I was all ears!”
“Now I don’t have to worry about owing money. I am free from debt, and I can save some money to pay for Pooja’s medicine and appointments with the consultant.”
“Organic farming is really cheap. After getting trained in it you realise that you don’t need chemicals. The composting methods, the pesticides substitutes cost next to nothing. It takes about 1 year to persevere, but after that the crop results are fantastic, AND the produce tastes so much better. The customers are very pleased because it is healthy too! I grow wheat, soya bean, all sorts of vegetables, and it’s all chemical free.”
“This project has made such a difference to our family. It means I have more time to look after and play with Pooja.”
In conjunction with Krishna, the village field worker for Naman Seva Samiti, Akosh now runs a counselling service for parents of other children living with a disability.
“Not only that, I also run training workshops in organic farming for the other farmers in the surrounding area. I want them all to know, as long as they don’t take my customers away!”
As for Pooja, her life is still full of challenges and her daily routine is long and hard.
“She is in 4th grade, but she doesn’t receive any special education. She just has to keep up with the rest of the kids, the best she can.”
But she helps her dad and grows her own organic vegetables for herself and her family. “Her confidence is growing, slowly, slowly. A bit like my organic vegetables,” Akosh jokes.