The Chingari Child Rehabilitation Fund

Fund a child’s rehabilitation at our Chingari clinic and help transform their life. Thanks to our physiotherapists, speech therapists, and special educators, every year more children at Chingari learn to sit, walk, or speak, and face the world’s challenges.

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Chingari Child Rehabilitation Fund

Fund a child’s rehabilitation at our Chingari clinic and help transform their life. Thanks to our physiotherapists, speech therapists, and special educators, every year more children at Chingari learn to sit, walk, or speak, and face the world’s challenges.

The Bhopal Medical Appeal is a UK charity that cares for survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster, the 1984 Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. We provide free treatment for families poisoned by gas or by toxic chemicals still leaking into water sources in the city, including a third generation of damaged children. These are their stories:

Maimoona’s Story

Maimoona is 5 years old and has cerebral diplegia, a form of cerebral palsy that affects the portion of the brain that controls movement. While most children learn to walk between the ages of 9 and 18 months, Maimoona struggled with crawling and appeared unable to stand without help. Her mother, concerned at the tightness in her daughter’s legs and that Maimoona’s condition might be linked to her grandfather’s exposure to toxic gas during the 1984 disaster, brought her to the Chingari clinic. At Chingari, Maimoona began a targeted course of physiotherapy designed to help ease the tightness in her legs and give her more independent control. Since starting treatment, Maimoona has learned to stand, sit, and squat independently, as well as ‘kneel walk’ on her knees. Although she cannot yet walk upright unassisted, the hope is with continued work to strengthen her legs this might eventually be achievable. Maimoona’s condition also affects her cognitive development, and she has been attending speech therapy and special education classes at Chingari. Thanks to speech therapy she has now started responding to her name and has learned new words to communicate with her family and carers. In the special education classes, she has learned to hold a pencil and enjoys doing art. As her condition predominantly affects her legs, she has good upper body coordination and is excellent at activities involving blocks. She can now do colour matching, as well as ring tower and box tower building exercises. Outside her classes Maimoona loves food and her favourite two things are dairy milk chocolate and ice cream.

Azaan’s Story

Four-year-old Azaan lies in his mother’s arms, but his sleep is far from peaceful. He suffers regular seizures, the fitful shaking of his small body jerking him awake. He hugs her tighter in fear. “I was eight months pregnant when the gas tragedy happened”, Azaan’s grandmother tells us. “Along with my husband I ran to a safer place. My daughter was born with nasal complications – not severe, but she still has mild complications”. Unfortunately, her daughter’s son was not so lucky. Little Azaan has cerebral palsy accompanied by epilepsy, the cause of his frequent fits. Azaan’s favourite person is his ‘bua’ (aunt) and he looks forward to her coming home every day. Azaan’s grandmother tells us Azaan is like any other child, “he complains about us to his bua” she laughs playfully. His mother cries as she tells us how Azaan’s father Abdul gets sad when he sees other children Azaan’s age starting to walk, talk, and play with other children. To comfort him she tells him “He will be okay. See how he has grown up so much more than before?” However, she admits to us she too has her doubts. “Probably, his condition won’t get any better, but I just want to comfort his father.” The couple bring Azaan to the Chingari clinic for treatment. He receives regular physio and speech therapy from the doctors, and while progress has been slow there are promising signs. Azaan’s drooling has reduced, he makes better eye contact and his ability to chew and swallow food has improved. The hope is his mother’s worries are unfounded and with continued care Azaan will eventually be able to make up for the milestones he’s already missed: to sit, stand and speak his first words.

Kamini’s Story

Although Kamini is 8 years old, you might not guess it when first meeting her. Her small physique and timid nature are reminiscent of a younger child, and her delayed development has affected not only her stature, but also her motor functions, speech, and cognitive and social skills. Her parents, concerned that Kamini’s condition is a result of her father’s exposure to gas during the 1984 Union Carbide disaster, began bringing her to the Chingari clinic for treatment. Prior to attending the center, Kamini was still unable to walk comfortably as her inability to fully straighten her legs affected her balance. With the help of physiotherapy, her walking ability and posture have both improved enormously, and she is now able to stand fully upright and walk without help. Kamini has also been receiving occupational and speech therapy which have improved her comfort in social settings. She is now better able to maintain eye contact and is more responsive during conversations. Best of all, with her improved language skills she now loves telling stories and even singing songs from time to time. All of the breakthroughs Kamini has made at Chingari would never have been possible without the love, support and affection Kamini receives from her parents at home. They love to take her out for walks, her favourite being along the shorefront of the upper lake in Bhopal. Her best memory was when they took a boat out on the water, from which she was able to look down at the incredible view of the whole city from the middle of the lake.

Subhana’s Story

Subhana is 13 years old and has autism spectrum disorder. Her mother Rukhsana became worried Subhana was not developing typically when her friend’s baby started crawling whilst Subhana could not sit upright without support. She took Subhana to a local hospital, where the doctor diagnosed her with congenital muscle weakness and developmental delay. In that moment, Rukhsana’s mind filled with all the stories Subhana’s father had shared about his own worst memories as a child: running in panic through those same streets where the family still live, lost among clouds of choking, toxic gas that had silently leaked from the Union Carbide factory. Concerned that Subhana’s condition was related to the gas disaster, Rukshana began making enquiries and learned of the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre. The first time she brought Subhana to the clinic she was 3 years old and was just learning to walk, but remained entirely non-verbal. With the help of a specialised course of speech therapy, Subhana slowly began to communicate. First came gestures and single words, then two-word phrases, and eventually full sentences. As her communication skills improved Subhana quickly found new friends at Chingari: Zehra, Sara and Rishikesh. With the help of speech therapy and special education, Subhana’s communication, cognitive and social skills have continued to improve, and she now loves joining in with all the games and activities at the centre. At home, Subhana is learning the skills she needs to become independent, including preparing tea, doing the laundry, folding clothes, and washing up. Her favourite activities are watching Bollywood films and playing dress-up, often based on what she’s seen on the screen. She also has three secret confidantes in the form of the family’s goats, whom she has named Shahrukh Khan (after the Bollywood actor), Dhanno and Bulbul (characters in Bollywood films).

Mehraj’s Story

Mehraj is six years old. He has axonal motor polyneuropathy, a body-wide condition that damages the nerve cells, most prominently in the hands, arms, legs, and feet. As a toddler, Mehraj had difficultly coordinating and using his limbs. He would experience shooting pains, discomfort and occasional numbness in his legs and arms which made it difficult to stand and was unable to eat without help from his parents. Chingari’s physiotherapists began working with Mehraj, creating a specialised training regimen designed to alleviate his discomfort and help him become physically self-reliant. The program has been a great success. Today, Mehraj can walk independently for distances of more than 100 metres and has progressed to tougher physical activities including supinator-pronator muscle exercises, light running on a treadmill, the balance beam, hopping, and alternate forward and backward jumping routines. He is now able to feed and clothe himself and get through his daily activities without the need for constant support from an adult. For Mehraj, the biggest change since attending Chingari is the opportunities it has created to learn and play with other children. With the help of speech therapy, he is now communicating typically for a child his age and comes voluntarily to sit and learn in his special education classes. But thanks to his improved mobility, Mehraj’s favourite thing is to play hide and seek with the other children in his neighbourhood, running through the streets and laughing with his friends.

Manya’s Story

Manya, age 9, suffers from Dravet Syndrome. The condition is a form of epilepsy resulting from a rare genetic mutation. Studies have shown that exposure to MIC gas can result in genetic damage to chromosomal DNA, meaning the effects are transgenerational and her condition could be a result of her maternal grandfather’s exposure on the night of the disaster in 1984. Dravet Syndrome is accompanied by seizures, developmental delay, and speech impairment. As she grew, Manya felt she was falling behind her friends and could not express herself the way she wanted. With the help of Chingari’s speech therapists, she is now able to speak basic sentences, and has even started to use her improved tongue control to blow bubbles. She also loves her English classes and can now spell her own name and can identify and name colours in English as well. Away from the clinic Manya enjoys playing games with her parents. Her favourite activity is playing badminton against her father, with her mother helping her to hold the racket and always encouraging her to win. She also loves watching Indian cartoons, her favourite one being Oggy and Cockroaches, about Oggy the cat and his three cockroach flatmates.

Turhan’s Story

Turhan is 14 years old and has cerebral palsy, a possible consequence of his father’s exposure to MIC gas on the night of the 1984 disaster. As they watched him grow, it soon became apparent to Turhan’s parents that the muscles on the right side of his body were too weak to support him, and he could not stand upright or walk like other children. In search of help, they brought Turhan to the Chingari clinic. The physiotherapists created a rigorous program of targeted daily exercises for Turhan, designed to strengthen the muscles in his right arm, core, and both of his legs. The results were astonishing. Today, Turhan can stand without bending forward, walk independently with his feet straight and good balance, and has gained full use of his right hand. With the help of speech therapy Turhan is communicating normally for his age, and through Chingari’s special education classes he has been able to return to regular school, where he is studying at a 3rd grade level. His favourite activities are playing catch with the other children and watching Motu Patlu, a Hindi cartoon about two friends who are always getting into trouble.

Mantasha’s Story

Mantasha is 14 years old. Although her mother was only a teenager on the night of the Bhopal gas disaster, the toxic vapours she inhaled that night would change her life forever. When, years later, the doctor placed Mantasha in her arms, she saw her baby’s head was small and undeveloped and one of her tiny hands clawed and twisted. As Mantasha grew she struggled to speak and her movements were limited by the twists in her limbs. Learning of the Chingari clinic, her mother began to bring her for daily treatment, including physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and special education. Since then, Mantasha has made steady progress: she is now able to grip and hold things in her hand, walks with her knees straighter than before, and has improved her overall stance, posture, and balance. Mantasha has thrived in her special education classes. She excels in mathematics and can solve four-digit addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division questions. She has learnt to write in both Hindi and English and has even started learning to read Hindi books. Mantasha gets on well with the other children and with her improved mobility now loves playing basketball and bocce. Determined to be the fastest at the clinic, she also enjoys athletics and running around the Chingari premises.

Umair’s Story

Nine-year-old Umair has Down’s syndrome. His father and paternal grandparents were exposed to gas from Union Carbide’s factory when his father was only four years old. His grandparents both suffered damage to their eyes, and his grandfather’s vision has deteriorated further over the years. Umair has been receiving physiotherapy, speech therapy and special education every day at Chingari for the past five years. Although he learned to walk as a child, he struggles with balance and coordination. Since attending Chingari, he has learned to walk longer distances without support, climb stairs and steep slopes, and improved his hand-eye coordination through sports activities like throwing and catching. He has also learned to dress and feed himself, to recite the alphabet and his numbers from 1 to 10. Umair still communicates only with single words most of the time, but he has expanded his vocabulary and is better at communicating his desires and needs. Umair’s favourite things are ice cream, which he asks for constantly, submerging his biscuits entirely in his tea, and watching TV while sitting in a ‘horse’ position taught to him by his occupational therapist. He also loves to play with his sister and cousins, who adore him and like to hug him and bring him toys to play with.

Alfez’s Story

When Alfez was less than a year old, his mother Tarannum, concerned by his inability to crawl, took him to see a doctor. The doctor informed her that Alfez was suffering from a congenital disability and asked her if anyone in her family was gas-affected. “I am not gas affected, but I don’t know about Alfez’s father and grandparents” she replied. Unknown to her, Alfez’s father had inhaled the poisonous gases from the Union Carbide factory when he was only 18 months old. Alfez, now 10, receives daily treatment at Chingari, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and special education. Since attending he has improved body control, diminished issues with sensory stimuli, and has made progress with his visual recognition through art and writing classes. But the biggest change for Alfez, who spent most of his early years alone, has been learning to share and play with other children. His favourite person to spend time with is his cousin Falak, who looks out for him and helps him if he gets upset. Alfez’s mother Tarannum likes to cook him his favourite meal of rice and dahl and watch him eat, which he can now manage without help. Unknown to him, each and every day she prays for him and the other children, saying “बस ऐसे बच्चों की दबाई बन जाए, अल्लाह पाक की दुआ से” (“may such children have a medical cure by the grace of Allah).”

Suraj’s Story

Suraj was born beside a lake full of toxic chemical waste. It was some time after Suraj’s birth that his mother Ramsiya learned that water from this lake had been mixing with the discoloured groundwater she had been drinking for years. When Ramsiya brought Suraj to our doctors they noted the milestones he had already missed. At one year he hadn’t sat up or recognised his mother. By three, no response to speech. Suraj was four by the time he was belatedly weaned—the same year that chloroform, mercury, lead, pesticides, and dichloromethanes were found in the milk of mothers living by the factory. Suraj reached adulthood without ever having caught a ball, sung a song or climbed a tree. At 18, Suraj had not run or jumped, had never stood up unaided, hadn’t once walked a single step, or even uttered one word. Then, against all odds, against every expectation, something miraculous happened. Suraj was referred to the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre. Three painstaking months of targeted therapy, five days per week, enabled Suraj to gain some neck control. Next came three months dedicated to strengthening his torso. A month after, Suraj sat without support for the first time. Now began motion therapy work on the lower limbs. After months of unflinching effort, Suraj was able to stand. Balance and coordination work came next. At 19 years of age, Suraj took his first unaided footsteps. 116 other Chingari kids had walked before Suraj, but none so impossibly. Weeks later, and for the first time in his life, Suraj spoke his mother’s name.

£590

Funds a child’s treatment for one year.

£49

Funds a child’s treatment for one month.

£6

Funds a child’s education for one month.

£9

Funds a child’s speech therapy for one month.

£15

Funds a child’s physiotherapy for one month.

£13,000

Funds the whole Chingari Clinic for one month.

Disclaimer: Before you donate, please note that the child rehabilitation fund is not a sponsorship program. By donating you are supporting the care of a child or children at Chingari, but you will not be linked with a specific child. We will provide updates on the progress of all the children’s treatment to our donors throughout their time in our care.

The Cause: Deadly Gas and Poisoned Water

Zoya’s grandmother Asha gently cradles her face and speaks softly to calm her, though she knows Zoya cannot answer. Zoya is 15 years old, but she has never uttered a word. Her hands hang limply from her wrists, a legacy from that night in 1984 when her father Farukh, himself only 15 at the time, panicked and ran blindly from Asha’s side into a darkness filled with deadly gas.

The gas cloud came from a leak at the Union Carbide factory, which made chemicals to kill insects, and drifted across the city of Bhopal. No alarm was sounded, no warning came. By morning thousands were dead, and hundreds of thousands maimed. By some miracle Farukh survived, but he would not live to see his daughter reach the same age.

Union Carbide’s industrial gas disaster in Bhopal, India, is known as the world’s worst. But it didn’t just happen in 1984. It began.

Deadly poisons crossed the lungs of those who breathed the gas and were ferried through the blood, where they broke down, causing damage to organs, to immune, nervous and reproductive systems, to cells and to genes. In the 37 years since, thousands of others like Farukh have succumbed to their injuries.

Tens of thousands more were for decades forced to drink water contaminated with toxic chemicals from the abandoned factory site — chemicals known to damage genes, or impact a developing foetus — which continue to seep steadily into the earth, poisoning the wells and pumps of those living in surrounding neighbourhoods.

And so today in Bhopal, damaged children are being born in such numbers that there is no forseeable end to Carbide’s disaster.

On the day Farukh died, Zoya was three years old but still could not speak or walk. For years, Asha and her husband Mansoor cared for Zoya: washing her, dressing her, helping her to the bathroom.

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It was not until Zoya was 6 that they learned of the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre. With the help of physio and speech therapy, Zoya has begun walking, comprehending, and communicating her needs with signs.

At Chingari, we care for hundreds of children like Zoya, whose parents and grandparents were exposed to the gas, or had unknowingly been drinking water filled with toxic waste. Denied official support or compensation, they have nowhere to turn but to us.

The Solution: The Chingari Rehabilitation Centre

The Chingari Rehabilitation Centre was founded in 2006 by Rashida Bi and Champa Devi Shukla, both gas survivors themselves. The two women campaigned on behalf of the survivors for years and have never given up the fight for true compensation and justice. The courage and tenacity they showed in their struggle won them the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in 2004, and they used every penny to open Chingari two years later.

Chingari now supports 229 disabled children every day, providing therapies and special education, as well as lunch and transport to and from the centre. But there are a further 1000 registered children in the area who would benefit if resources allowed. The child rehabilitation fund aims to support continued treatment and education and provide a community space to physically and psychologically disabled children and young adults born into families affected by the gas and water poisoning.

When Chingari proudly marked their 10th anniversary in 2016, the founders reflected upon their incredible progress:

We started Chingari in a single room with 15 disabled children and limited resources' said Rashida and Champa. 'The only thing we had at that point was the passion to improve the lives of congenitally disabled children born into families affected by the gas tragedy and subsequent water contamination.

Over the years Chingari has continued to grow, and we have achieved things we would never have believed were possible back then. Almost all the children come from impoverished backgrounds and have family members with long-term health conditions, situations which often compound their struggles.

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With a donation of £590, you will fund one child’s annual treatment including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, special education, and sports activities.

Your donation provides children who visit the centre with a space in which they are supported, stimulated, and encouraged, as well as being able to play normally with other children, an experience they do not often encounter at home and in their neighbourhoods. Please consider supporting us and help these children have a better future.

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