IF you happen to visit the self-help disabled organisation called the “Independent Living and Training Centre” in Rawang in Selangor, you’re bound to meet Letchumy Krishnan.
Though mostly unassuming in nature, the 25-year old is one of the most active residents of the home.
She cleans, cooks, sews and makes delightful handicraft items at the centre. She even does the weekly grocery. All these amazing feats whilst seated in her wheelchair!
However, Letchumy wasn’t at all like this when she was living with her mother at their home in Taman Sri Muda in Shah Alam, Selangor.
A lucky break for the duo, seated at the right place at the right time by their radio set changed everything for the mother and daughter.
Letchumy was born on the first of April at the General Hospital in Klang.
However, it was no April Fool’s joke to her family when the doctors discovered that Letchumy was joined from the head with her twin sister.
The surgeons wasted no time to separate the conjoined babies. Letchumy’s sister, however, sadly died within three months.
By then the little girl was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, making Letchumy the youngest and only person with a disability among her siblings of three children in the family.
The discovery of disability brought about a mixed reaction.
Letchumy’s dad was greatly distraught by the news. He decided to abandon his daughter.
“I think it is the hardest thing in life to be disowned by a parent for something that I had no control over – being born as a disabled person,” Letchumy told Wheel Power last week.
“Dad left us when I needed him the most. When I confronted him about it when I was older, my dad told me point blank that I was of ‘no use’ to him as a disabled person. What can you give to me?” Letchumy said.
Though she had tears in her eyes, she told me that she was a much stronger person now without him. He passed away four years ago.
Thank God for mothers! Letchumy’s mum never gave up on her little girl.
With her income packing drinks at a factory, she continued to support her children.
She enrolled Letchumy into a Tamil school near their home. As they had no car, a friend kindly offered to transport her daughter to school. Class attendance, however, was irregular whenever there was no transport.
Letchumy was able to walk with support from other people when they held her hands and body. She, however, had to do so extremely gingerly as there was always the fear of falling down.
As a student with a disability, Letchumy was unable to use the toilet in school as it did not have disabled-friendly features. She was “excused” from student assembly sessions, sports (which she loved so much) and the canteen which she deeply regrets.
At home, crawling about was the most practical thing to do.
Letchumy had to stop schooling after the doctors did a surgery to “improve” her leg. It only made the situation worse by cutting off extra nerves resulting in the loss of sensations that was there before.
Letchumy found herself “banished” to the third floor of her flat. “It was a very lonely life and I often cried to myself when no one was around,” she said adding that, “There was no lift in my flats so I couldn’t get out and make friends.”
Then, a most unexpected thing happened.
Letchumy and her mother were listening to Radio Six, the Tamil broadcaster of Radio Televisyen Malaysia, when a special live interview programme with several disabled activists came on.
One of them was Francis Siva, the president of the ILTC, who is also a disabled person who is paralysed from his neck down.
“My mum and I couldn’t believe our ears when we heard about how positively disabled people were living at the ILTC,” said Letchumy and added that she got herself enrolled at the centre within two days.
Not only were the services and accommodation free of charge, she said, but everyone at the ILTC were friendly and enthusiastic about life.
“Suddenly, a whole new world was open to me,” said Letchumy.
Letchumy learnt to speak English and Bahasa Malaysia. She also had the opportunity to touch and use a computer for the first time.
“Perhaps one of the best chances was to use a wheelchair to move around,” she said with a big smile.
“I don’t have to crawl about in an undignified manner anymore.”
“Being sad is history for me now. Starting a new life, as is the motto of the ILTC, is what I want to focus my life on and my mum is also very proud of my achievements too,” concluded Letchumy.
Letchumy is looking for ways to get an extra income. She is game on finding an employment outside the centre or even working from her place at the centre.
If you can help, please call the ILTC at 03-6091 2531 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Letchumy is spending the Festival of Lights this week with her mum in Shah Alam. She will be back at the ILTC on Saturday.
Wheel Power wishes everyone Happy Deepavali.
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