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Nandhini's story, growing up disabled in India

Renee Schreurs

Nandhini Kumar is the elder sister of Satish Kumar, the little boy who we named our organisation after. She is 15 years old and lives with us part of the year when her usual school is closed for the holidays and weekends.

Nandhini has to go to a special school because of disabilities, some of which she was born with and others that were the result of the treatment she received as a very young girl. Her story before life with CARE Foundation and My Name is Kumar is very sad but thanks to child sponsors she has been given great support.

Nandhini was born deaf, and after her mother committed suicide (a common cause of death in the community, especially amongst young mothers) she was left in the care of her father who did not look after her very well. She found it extremely difficult to communicate with the community around her and grew used to looking after herself, living a far more lonelier life than little girls should. The adults close to her did not know how to (or want to) care for Nandhini – sometimes attitudes in India toward disabilities can be challenging to learn about.

Her father earns money begging on the streets and when Nandhini was a little older than a baby she was forced to do the same. She was left alone on the streets of the city, unable to hear, speak or understand her surroundings.

Trouble really began for Nandhini when she started to experience seizures. Without anyone to mind her and keep her safe when she went into a fit she would bang against things and injure herself badly. Ultimately the seizures led to Nandini suffering brain damage which irreversibly changed the way her brain worked and her understanding of the world around her.

Instead of receiving help Nandhini was pushed even further into the sidelines because her father didn’t know what to do with her.

When Peter, the director and founder of our Indian partner CARE Foundation, found Nandhini on the streets he immediately saw the severity of her situation. She had numerous cuts, bruises and abrasions which needed urgent treatment. With her father’s consent Peter took Nandhini to hospital to get help. She clung to Peter all the way there and has had a special connection with him ever since (sometimes he is the only one she will listen to!).

We had to find a place for Nandhini at a special school that could work with her deafness and communication requirements. When her school closes for holidays she comes back to stay with us and gets to spend time with her little brother Satish.

The transformation of Nandini has been huge, she is hardly recognisable from the day Peter rescued her. As she grows up we know that she will need more support than any of our other children, way into her adult life. We will need to help her find a suitable job, a home and make sure her relationships with others are safe.

We can’t underestimate the part that regular child sponsorship has played in Nandini’s life. If you would like to support Nandhini’s education and development then please click this link.

Nandhini and Satish strike a pose 

Nandhini and Satish strike a pose