Girija Madhu Enhances Joy in the Lives of Children with Cerebral Palsy

In the face of adversity, it’s often said that one must be their own hero. Yet, in a remarkable display of compassion and steadfast dedication, one woman’s efforts have dramatically altered the destinies of countless children afflicted with Cerebral Palsy (CP). These extraordinary young individuals defy the odds and societal exclusion with remarkable resilience. At the forefront of the inaugural Khelo India Para Games 2023 in Delhi, not only have over 1,400 differently-abled athletes been showcased, but also the selfless individuals who operate out of the limelight, striving to bring joy to the lives of boys and girls battling CP. Among these unsung heroes is Girija Kumari Madhu, a pivotal figure within the Cerebral Palsy Sports Federation of India (CPSFI).

Cerebral Palsy is a daunting neurological condition that manifests in early childhood, leading to lifelong challenges in movement and muscle coordination, often due to brain development issues before birth. While precise statistics on CP prevalence in India are elusive, CPSFI’s general secretary, Kavita Suresh, estimates the figure could exceed ten million.

Three years ago, Girija, a homemaker, made a life-altering decision to empower CP-affected children to reclaim their identities and achieve self-sufficiency. Her unwavering commitment and personal sacrifices are now bearing fruit.

“Discovering Cerebral Palsy football through a conversation with the All India Football Federation (AIFF) was a turning point for me,” Girija recounts. “Having played football since I was 14, I knew the sport’s transformative power. It fills my heart with joy to see these children, once struggling to walk, now sprinting and scoring goals, and even clinching tournament victories.”

Girija paints a grim picture of the reality faced by these children, often hidden away by parents ashamed of their condition, deprived of interaction and education. Moved by this, she resolved to make a difference.

Now 49, Girija, who also serves as a team manager, recently celebrated Kerala’s impressive victories at the Khelo India Para Games, with the team delivering a spectacular performance. Having secured four national titles since 2022, the Kerala team, led by the 23-year-old captain Sijo George, is a strong contender for the gold, thanks to their strategic gameplay.

Girija’s initiative, the Cerebral Palsy Football Association of Kerala (CPSAK), was born out of her desire to nurture local talent in Alappuzha. Despite the lack of recognition and financial backing from the Kerala State Sports Council (KSSC), she remained undeterred, even pawning her jewelry to support the 20 CP children under her wing.

A FIFA-CIES international sports management program alumna, Girija founded the Amogha Foundation to further develop these children’s skills in areas like data analytics, graphic design, and fine arts. “We’re committed to honing their unique abilities. With professional guidance, we aim to enable them to live with dignity and independence. Adequate funding would truly elevate our mission,” she asserts.

The Amogha Foundation’s efforts and the challenges faced by CP children gained visibility through local media coverage, prompting the Buimerc Foundation to sponsor the Kerala team’s training and travel. Additionally, the Ernakulam-based Oorjja Foundation has committed to assisting with job placements.

Girija views the Khelo India Para Games as a monumental step towards igniting a sports revolution, with the Sports Authority of India’s support being invaluable. “Our dream is to see our team competing in Delhi among other remarkable athletes. We hope for continued support from Kerala to spread more happiness among the CP community,” she shares with optimism.,

Girija Madhu is a dedicated individual who has made it her mission to improve the lives of children with cerebral palsy. Recognizing the unique challenges faced by these children, she has established a program that focuses on providing holistic care and support.

Her approach includes:

1. **Therapeutic Interventions**: Girija has implemented various therapeutic strategies such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy to help children with cerebral palsy improve their motor skills, communication abilities, and overall independence.

2. **Inclusive Education**: Understanding the importance of education, Girija works to ensure that these children have access to inclusive educational environments where they can learn at their own pace alongside their peers.

3. **Recreational Activities**: She believes in the power of play and joy in a child’s life. Therefore, her program includes recreational activities that are adapted to the abilities of children with cerebral palsy, helping them to enjoy their childhood and develop social skills.

4. **Family Support**: Girija recognizes that families of children with cerebral palsy also need support. She provides counseling and resources to help families cope with the challenges and celebrate the achievements of their children.

5. **Awareness Campaigns**: To combat stigma and promote understanding, Girija conducts awareness campaigns that educate the public about cerebral palsy and advocate for the rights and inclusion of individuals with disabilities.

Through her unwavering commitment and innovative programs, Girija Madhu is not only enhancing the quality of life for children with cerebral palsy but is also empowering them to lead joyful and fulfilling lives.

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