On the 8th December at 7:54am we launched our BBC Radio 4 Appeal. Presented by the wonderful Jon Snow and featuring the awe inspiring Suraj Malam Singh.
Jon Snow visited Bhopal 17 and a half years after the Bhopal Gas Tragedy, he witnessed toxic waste heaped in the open, contaminating the ground and drinking water. 17.5 years later and the waste is still there – Union Carbide never came to clear up the site. Not only this their negligence to create safe systems of waste disposal before and after the gas tragedy meant every monsoon season toxic chemicals were allowed to seep further into the ground and water systems. Contaminants have now spread to at least 42 communities, possibly as many as 48, in which approximately 100,000 people live. Hundreds of Children have been born damaged as a result
Suraj was born beside a lake full of toxic chemical waste. When Suraj’s mother brought him into the Sambhavna Clinic they noted the milestones he has already missed. At one year he hadn’t sat up or recognised his mother. By three, no response to speech.
Meeting Suraj at eight, managing trustee Sathyu wrote, “He melts my heart, but does not, cannot, speak. His legs, arms too, are mostly useless, but he makes amazing use of them, dragging himself about, crawling, tumbling, using his limbs as though he’s trained each separately. There are sores on his knees, ankles, shins. Flies cluster on them. Suraj, unmindful, smiles on.”
Suraj reached 18 unable to walk, talk or even sit unaided, but then something miraculous happened. Suraj was referred to the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre. Set up in 2005 by two women gas survivors Chingari, supported by Bhopal Medical Appeal, provides restorative therapies and special education to children born damaged as a consequence of chemical exposure in Bhopal.
After only 7 months of daily targeted therapy Suraj was able to sit unaided. After 18 months he was able to walk unaided for the first time in 19 years. Weeks later and for the first time in his life Suraj spoke his mothers name. You can see Suraj’s first steps below.
We have launched our BBC Radio 4 appeal to help more damaged children find their feet and find their voice. Please listen to our appeal and help us support the Chingari Rehabilitation Centre.
So, what is Suraj up to now? Well we are very pleased to report he is still improving and hard at work continuing with his therapy, as you can see below.