Interview

Volume 1 Issue 8 - December 15, 2003

I don't earn money; I earn respect!

A 2003 Helen Keller awardee, Ram Dayal Sharma, is a carpenter who has been working at AADI for the last 20 years. During this period he has built and made adaptations in wheelchairs, exercise equipment, ramps and other aids used to help disabled children. He proudly states that it is his work that gives him the greatest satisfaction, not when he brings home a pay cheque. Succeeding in giving a disabled child a bit of comfort is his prime goal, he tells Anne-Marie Prayas.

What was your initial reaction when you first came across children suffering from cerebral palsy?
Before coming to Delhi, I had seen several physically challenged people, but it was only in AADI that I first came across children suffering from cerebral palsy. My first reaction was to do something to help them. Using my carpentry skills, I began to do some serious planning and thinking, and my resulting ideas and innovations proved successful.

What kinds of aids and devices have you created?
I have come up with ideas for several aids including CT chairs, corner chairs, standing frames, and adaptations for wheelchairs. Each child has different problems and every need has to be catered to individually. Markets do not sell equipment which is tailor-made for various disabilities. Even a ready-made wheelchair needs to be adapted and recreated to suit the child's need. I also make exercise equipment of different sizes for children for different age groups.

What motivated you to do this work?
The condition of these children was enough motivation for me. When I saw their spirit, my mind immediately started planning and designing new techniques to help them lead a better life. My motivation grew with the success of my inventions.

Your salary is not a very significant amount. Does that get in the way of your work?
I do not earn very much but there is no such thing as 'enough' where money is concerned. I am able to feed myself and my family; what more do I need? No amount of money can buy the satisfaction I get from my work. I have never had any intentions of running after money nor have I ever dreamed of becoming rich. Working for these children gives me a wealth full of happiness. People respect me for what I am doing. That is my greatest treasure. I don't earn money, I earn respect!

How did your family respond to your achievements?
Words are not enough to describe the amount of respect I have gained through the Helen Keller award. My family and relatives have now begun to respect my dedication towards my work. I am the first person from my village [in Bihar] who has been given national recognition. My family is extremely proud of the fact that an ordinary carpenter, from their midst, has contributed to the welfare of the country.

Most people think one man alone cannot contribute to society in a significant way, but you have proven them wrong. What do you have to say on this subject?
I haven't done anything outstanding. I have merely carried out my duties and earned great joy from the fact that they have been beneficial to several lives. I don't think that anything is impossible. Every citizen must recognise his or her role in society and participate dutifully towards its development; only then will we see results. Every action will have some consequence and every person's hard work will bear fruit. If the citizens of this country think that they are incapable of making a difference, then how will there be any development in this country? It is only when everyone in the nation works unanimously towards a common goal, that we will achieve satisfying results.

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