Impacting lives for a better future

A polio affected woman from UP is changing lives of differently-abled children

Last Updated on June 25, 2023 by Neelam Singh

A report, sent by the UP government to the Union Education Ministry in October 2022, says that there are a total 5,32,040 Children with Special Needs (CwSN) between the 3-18 years age group in Uttar Pradesh. Whereas, 2,63,984 CwSN  are out of school. Hence, just 49.62% are currently enrolled in government-run and aided schools of UP.

In 2017, the state government said that there were only two schools running at Allahabad and Lucknow for differently-abled children in Uttar Pradesh. Even, the Supreme Court had questioned the UP government for the lack of separate schools and distinctly trained teachers for students who suffer from autism, blindness and deafness.

Raising a helping hand

Risha Verma from Sultanpur district of Uttar Pradesh is doing her bit to help the CwSN such as cerebral palsy, autism and others so that they can lead a normal life and become independent. 


Risha, now 53, was diagnosed with polio when she was a child. Her father tried every bit for her better treatment. It took her years to stand on her feet. “However, I still can’t walk properly without support because of the polio,” says Risha.

Hailing from a humble family where her father, a labourer, was struggling to fulfil basic needs for his family would often make him worry about Risha’s future. “He enrolled me in a school and after completing my 10th, he wanted me to pursue some technical course such as computers, believing that it will have have better scope. However, I wanted to do something else,” she shares.

Risha who was earlier using a wheelchair because of polio has faced bullying and discrimination at several levels. “People used to laugh at me. Usually people are known by their names, but I was known by my disability,” Risha recalls.

That is when, Risha developed an urge of doing something for others. “However, I did not know what to do. I had no idea where to start and whom to help,” Risha says. She further adds, “Whenever I would watch orphanages in movies I would think I should also do something like this.” 

Heading on a tough path

By the time she understood that she wanted to work for differently-abled people, she got married. However, to complete her education, i.e., Masters in Social (MSW in 2003), she sold her jewellery. Her strong desire to do something for other made her to leave her husband’s house.

In 2008, Risha took one room on rent in Sultanpur city and started training sessions for the differently-abled children. Initially there were few children. “The students used to come, attend the session and leave. Which was not making any difference in their lives. Because such children require 24×7 supervision by those who understand them. Whereas society and even many times their own families don’t understand this. In result, they got bullied by others and people laugh at them which, in turn, make them violent,” Risha explains.

Ray of Hope

By this time, Risha got elected as the pradhan of her village because of her work for the differently-abled children. With the help of the then district magistrate of Sultanpur, Kamali Ratan Chauhan, she managed to get a place for these kids and arranged all the facilities such as kitchen, washroom, study room and bedroom. “The place was not that great. It needed a lot of revamping, so I took a loan of Rs. 45,000 to repair the building,” tells Risha.

Today, after 15 years, she has her own center for the children called ‘Rural Informative and Social Harmony Academy’ based in a village called Bhain where 45 children with cerebral palsy, autism and other disbilities are residing. She has two teachers who are trained in teaching specially abled children, 5 men and women to look after the children, cook food and to take care of the building and other work.


What and how

While talking about the approach towards the children, Risha explains that first of all the IQ of a student gets analysed. Depending upon their understanding level, a module is prepared for every child.

“They are trained from the moment they wake up in the morning till they hit the bed in the night. They get trained for daily activities like brushing teeth, washing clothes, taking showers, way of talking, etc. We also teach them basic education through innovative ways. They also get involved in various extracurricular activities such as sports, music and dance. Once they start understanding things, we teach them how to handle jobs like handling small shops, working in hotels, etc. After they are skilled enough to lead a normal life, they go back to their families,” informs Risha.

Risha has children from across Uttar Pradesh, such as Sultanpur, Amroha, Ambedkar Nagar, Faizabad, etc. “We also have children whose families have abandoned them. After rescuing them, Police hand over them to me to look after them,” tells Risha.

Changing lives

While talking about the impact, Risha informs that there is a child called Asif who was not able to speak properly when he first came to her centre. Risha says with proud that, “After a lot of training and handholding for a year, he can now speak properly and is able to do all the daily activities.”

She further adds, “There are a few children who got fully trained and now they are either working in family business, running small shops or working in some local village hotels to earn about Rs. 6000-10,000 per month. We do counselling for these children as well as parents so that these children don’t become what they were before joining my center.”  Risha has also won several awards for her remarkable work from government.


When it comes to fund her noble cause, Risha shares that initially she was doing a job of Rs. 6000 per month that she used to spend for her social cause. Now, things have become easier. “I receive donations from individuals. Moreover, I also receive necessary stuff like beds and clothes in donations from people who trust me. As far as rations is concerned, I get them from my home so we don’t have to think of pulses, rice and roti for the entire year,” informs Risha.       

Risha wants to make the center big enough so that she can train as many differently-abled people as possible from across the state and provide them a better environment for their independent future.

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