The Chingari Trust is a sanctuary for the Bhopal gas tragedy victims, many of whom are now children. The center was set up in 2006 by the 2004 Goldman Environmental Award winners Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla, who both lived close to the factory on ‘that night’. They both suffered the terrible consequences of the gas and lost many family members.
Soon after, as their husbands became increasingly ill and could not work, they came out from under their veils and got to work helping Bhopali women all castes and religions with aid and justice for they had all been through. Along with many other women survivors of Bhopal they set The Bhopal Gas Affected Working Women’s Union in 1986 in direct response to the growing need for economic and medical relief.
By the early 1990’s, they had over 20,000 members-all whom were direct-gas victims. They soon became linked with other major activist groups in all parts of the country and fought many environmentally sensitive issues.
In 2004, both women were awarded The Goldman Environmental award – the greatest accolade and bestowment given annually to honor grassroots environmentalists. With the proceeds of this award, they soon founded Chingari Trust which was created in 2006 as a blueprint for utilizing the funds and administering its implementation for the welfare of gas victims.
One of the first major achievements of the Chingari Trust has been its creation of a database of children special needs. This database has been continually updated over the past 3 years of its operation. As of today, November 29 2012, they have 473 registered children with various types of disabilities—as a result of their parent’s exposure to gas, contaminated water, or both—have been registered with us, and 120 are receiving treatment in our rehabilitation center.
For many children, free medicine, and expenses for treatment are provided by the Trust.The rehabilitation center is situated just off the busy Barasia road and provides the all-important psychological support and counseling for the children so help them live ‘normal’ lives within their communities.
Support includes physiotherapy, speech therapy, teaching sign language, and reading and writing in Braille. Many parents and family members accompany the children and work alongside these incredible professional carers and counselors.
Visiting the centre is remarkable experience. Many of these sickly children do not survive to adulthood and, although the staff and parents suffer these awful deaths constantly, they have to continue to keep hope and spirits high. Amongst the writhing pain and disability are smiles and laughter, which ultimately, is a very humbling experience.
You can make a donation here
You can visit the Chingari Trust’s website here
Photos and words by Giles Clarke