India: A Young Boy Discovers New Independence and a Love of Cricket


Sahil, 10, lives in a village in Kashmir, a region of northern India. Sahil has a congenital disability that prevents him from walking. Since Handicap International gave him a new wheelchair and began providing him with rehabilitation care, he has been able to go to school every day, where he has made lots of friends and loves playing cricket.

The sun is beating down on a broad mountainous plain. It’s sports day. Hundreds of students are running across the grassland.  Sahil, 10, is taking part in the exercise, focused and full of energy.

“When my son was born, I took him in my arms. He was smaller than the other children. I was worried about him. Then I understood. I felt sad and really angry,” says Nisara, his mother. Sahil has phocomelia, a congenital disorder that causes malformation of the limbs. “For years, he couldn’t move around by himself, play with his friends, or wash himself. He was totally dependent. He often used to ask me ‘why can the other children play and not me?’ What do you say to that?”

In September 2015, Handicap International and its partner organization, Hope Disability Centre, set up an outreach rehabilitation camp near Sahil’s village. There, his legs were examined by physical therapists who provided him with rehabilitation care to restore his flexibility and make his limbs firmer. In December 2015, Sahil was taken to the rehabilitation center run by Handicap International and Hope Disability Centre. He was given a wheelchair, which he is now learning to use.

“Since then, Sahil has been using his wheelchair a lot," says Muddasir Ashraf, Handicap International's disability manager in India. "He can move along the dirt paths easily with help from his classmates. He attends rehabilitation sessions run by our physical therapists or with his parents, who we have trained. We will provide him with another adapted wheelchair when he is bigger or if his current one is damaged."

“Sahil is much more independent now," says Nisara. "Of course, we’re still worried about him and his future. But he’s got lots of friends, he gets average grades, and his teachers pay close attention to him. He even takes part in sports days. He loves cricket--it’s his passion. And he’s pretty good at it too."