Published: 10th March 2021
Himachal's Therapy on Wheels initiative is providing child disability care through India's first-ever mobile therapy van. Here's how
The Samphia Foundation works in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, and has been operating for the last three years. We find out more about their new initiative Therapy on Wheels
As the pandemic hit, one of the most adversely affected were people with disabilities. With no access to proper medical care during the nationwide lockdown, they were placed in a tight spot. In the Kullu district of Himachal Pradesh, the scenario was slightly different. With over a thousand children suffering from physical and developmental disabilities in the hilly area, it became almost impossible for them to get access to the therapy centres. This is when the Samphia Foundation, a non-profit organisation based in Kullu, stepped in. They launched India's first-ever mobile therapy clinic called the Therapy on Wheels on December 3, 2020. It's a vibrant yellow van that supports children with special needs. This was started to help them carry on with their therapy sessions despite the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. Equipped with all the necessary tools, the van offers physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy services to children as young as 7-8 months.
The Samphia Foundation works in Kullu, Himachal Pradesh, and has been in operation for the last three years. "In Kullu, distance is an issue — road infrastructure and climatic conditions become additional challenges for these children to travel to the therapy centre. We launched this especially for them. The bus is designed in a way that all these therapy interventions can be conducted in it. The bus goes to a common junction, is stationed there, children step into the bus and then, therapists conduct sessions. It has all the tools, different types of equipment and a ramp — pretty much everything that one needs. The bus also helps spread awareness about the difficulties these children face," Dr Shruti More, founder of Samphia Foundation, tells us.
As a result of the lockdown, the initiative got a bit delayed — it was scheduled to begin in June 2020. "The relevance of the bus became all the more important with the pandemic as 80 per cent of the children were not being able to access therapy centre. Now, we can cater to most of them through Therapy on Wheels," she adds. Thrice a week, the bus goes around to conduct awareness camps in new places and on the other days, it travels to particular locations where they have already identified children. "In a day, we are able to provide six sessions, each being 45 minutes to an hour. Depending on where the bus is stationed, some children get it twice a week, some on alternate weeks. For many of them who were not able to access the centre, now they have access to the bus and therapy every week. Six children can be accommodated at one point and there are three therapists," explains Dr Shruti.
The bus is designed and equipped to conduct these sessions accurately. "It has a treadmill. Due to space constraint, the design has been made in a way such that we can use the entire vehicle. It will be running in the mountains, so a smaller bus that could travel through valleys and narrow lanes was chosen. It's completely childproofed, it is modelled on a happy place and not like a hospital or clinic. It exudes a positive vibe. We installed an extendable ramp, which can also be converted into a floor with a collapsible roof and sidewalls on it. There is also an in-built projector and a mounting system so that we can continue training and creating awareness," says Dr Shruti.
Speaking about the major challenges, Dr Shruti shares that they provide long-term intervention at the centre. "If the crucial time is lost, it won't come back for the children. That was the biggest challenge when we stopped our services in March, some children were at the threshold. One of them was almost on the verge of walking and another had just begun speaking a few words. Then there was that sudden break in the intervention. Some of them have a cognitive impairment, so it was difficult for the parents to manage them alone at home without the help of a therapist. Thus, this initiative came at a very crucial time," she adds.
The Samphia Foundation wishes to expand this initiative all across Himachal. "A model like this is suitable for a region like Himachal, access is extremely important. Running a mobile therapy clinic is more feasible. We want to replicate this model in all districts of Himachal," concludes Dr Shruti.