The calender by the Coimbatore-based NGO features 12 models with disabilities from across the country
According to the World Health Organization, nearly 15% of the world’s population has some form of disability. “That is a huge number and in many cases, people in this segment are not acknowledged for their achievements. I want to show the world what we are capable of through our calender,” says Swarnalatha J, the managing trustee of Coimbatore-based NGO Swarga Foundation. The organisation recently launched the sixth edition of its I’m Special calendar for the year 2021 to celebrate the talents of people with special needs.
The edition is on youth icons and has people from across the country who have showcased their prowess in sports, fitness, fashion, and academics. The calender is a fund-raising initiative to offer hydrotherapy for those who need it. “This will be a big help to people with limited mobility. Proceeds from last year were used to provide physiotherapy for about 2,000 people in Coimbatore,” says Swarnalatha, who has progressive multiple sclerosis.
Models for the calendar were selected by a jury comprising disability rights activist Javed Ahmed Tak, educationist P Krishna Kumar, wildlife photographer and artist Hemalatha Madathil, photographer Swaarup S Chatterjee, film assistant director Amritha Sivadas, and artist and life coach Manjoo Shree N. The process took about seven months. “We got around 160 entries from across the country and it was a tough task to finalise options from them. Most of the shooting was done during lockdown, and the photographs were taken by photographers from the neighbourhood as we couldn’t travel there ourselves,” says Swarnalatha.
Divya Sharma, one of the models, is from Punjab and is an RJ, content manager and visibility activist. She was diagnosed with glaucoma as a child. “But I never felt it would stop me from achieving my dreams. There are always aids available to make our lives easier,” she says. She has been creating awareness at educational organisations on the importance of inclusion and the aids available, since 2016. “I was asked to leave school because of my disability. I went through emotional trauma and I didn’t want that to happen to anyone else,” she says.
Another person featured is M Venkatachalam, a para-athlete and basketball player from Vellore. “I met with a bike accident in 2009 and had a spine injury. I was introduced to sports as part of my physiotherapy sessions. It helped me both physically and mentally,” he says. He has represented India at the World Para Athletics Grand Prix held at Beijing in 2017 and is also a member of the Tamil Nadu wheelchair basketball team. “I identify people with special needs in my area and introduce them to various sports events. I believe it will make a positive impact on their lives.”
Swarnalatha says that such initiatives have created awareness among people on the needs of people with disabilities. “That is our biggest achievement. But there is still a long way to go for real change,” she says.
I’m Special calendar is available as a tabletop for ₹350. Visit https://www.swargafoundation.org/ or call 8012522522, 7397168333 for details.