Boniface Prabhu – Padma Shri awardee, India’s No. 1 wheelchair tennis player for years and the country’s first ever Para world-championship medal winner – is on a mission. He is leading the 3,500 KM Thums Up VEER Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) road expedition, to create awareness and sensitize people to the cause of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs). During a stopover at Mumbai, he attended the graduation felicitation ceremony held for VEERs at Carnival Cinemas and awarded the certificates to the students who have successfully completed their training program. These VEERS, who have excelled in their fields in spite of their disabilities, inspired the tennis player and the interaction was an emotional and enlightening experience for both, the VEERs and for Boniface Prabhu.
Later the K2K road expedition was flagged off to its next destination Pune in the presence of representatives from Carnival Cinema, American India Foundation, a leading NGO, and VEERs.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. PV Sunil, CEO and Director, Carnival Cinemas said, “This initiative is a great platform for people with disabilities to echo their message of ‘equality for all’. We are happy to associate with such a noble cause that will encourage VEERs to realize their full potential by providing them with equal opportunities and access to employment. We wish Boniface Prabhu all the luck for his inspirational road expedition and are hopeful that this mission will bring a positive change to the lives of PWDs.”
Thums Up along with partners American India Foundation and Being Human, already run the VEER campaign, which trains PWDs to make them employable.
The Thums Up VEER Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) road expedition,was flagged off on November 9, from Jammu and Kashmir. During the two weeks, the expedition has passed through Amritsar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Ajmer and Ahmedabad before reaching Mumbai. The expedition has covered 2200 KMs over 14 days, stopping at several places to attend events, meetings and sign language training classes, all aimed towards an Accessible India. Over the next three weeks, Boniface will participate in more than 40 events hosted and facilitated by India’s largest selling soft drink brand – Thums Up jointly with the American India Foundation.
Elaborating on the Thums Up VEER K2K road expedition, Boniface Prabhu said, “While we are all focused on the core issues of technology, infrastructure, manufacturing etc., I believe that we cannot make the India of our dreams if we do not leverage the skills and the potential of the PWDs. While on one hand, we need to mainstream the PWDs and create opportunities for them, on the other we also need to be sensitive to their unique requirements. Being a quadriplegic myself, the onus was on me to take this step forward. I am hoping that this expedition will help set the ground for some meaningful interventions in this space. Let us make an Accessible India, as we make our India.”
Thums Up VEER K2K expedition aims to:
- Promote and spread the use of sign language in India
- Understand the aims and aspirations of the differently-abled with a view to influence public policy which is beneficial for them
- Create a platform for exchange of ideas and best practices between PWDs
- And motivate and inspire the specially abled to unleash the potential within them
As per the 2011 census, there are 26.8 million PWDs in India and only 3% of them are gainfully employed. This is unlike some developed countries where the employment rate of PWDs is 30% to 50%. The World Bank estimates that by excluding PWDs from the mainstream leads an economy loses 3%-7% of GDP realization. Thums Up VEER K2K seeks to play a role in integrating PWDs into the mainstream.
Traversing the longitudinal plane of India, crisscrossing 14 cities, Boniface will aim to finish the journey in about 30 days involving over 200 hours of driving time. The expedition is also being supported by Being Human Foundation, Times Now, Indian Oil, Hindustan Coca-Cola and several others.
About Thums Up VEER program
Thums Up along with Being Human and American India Foundation launched VEER, a Campaign focused on unleashing the potential of the differently abled people in our country. Campaign VEER aims to address challenges such as inclusive education and employment, skill training and development, and advocating for disabled-friendly technology. With the support of its partners, the campaign is working at imparting vocational training to these individuals and ascertains their requirements so that they can be made job-ready. Hans Foundation has joined hands of the campaign a strategic partner.