Soaring from a wheelchair to give joy to others

Nisha Varghese may have cerebral palsy and scoliosis and be stuck in a wheelchair, but her selfless spirit soars all over the world to help others.

MAKING A CONTRIBUTION: Wheelchair-bound Nisha Varghese, who has cerebral palsy and scoliosis, uses her blog and other social media tools to raise funds for a variety of international causes Picture: BARBARA HOLLANDS

From what she calls her “office” at the family dining table in Vincent, Varghese, 26, uses her blog and other social media tools to raise funds for a variety of causes because she wants it known that people with physical disabilities have a contribution to make.

She has successfully raised money for children with cleft palates and to build a water well in Kenya and has now turned her fund-raising talents to collect enough money to help 50 children with club feet.

By setting up a page on the fund-raising Crowdrise website, Varghese is able to to help an international organisation called MiracleFeet which works in 19 countries including Liberia, Tanzania, Madagascar, Nicaragua and India. The organisation works with local health professionals to use a non-surgical method called the Ponseti method to correct their inwardly turned feet.

“So far I have raised $4 387 (R61 967) which is enough for 17 children, but I want to raise enough to help 50 children and that’s why my campaign is called 50 New Feet. I do this because I wanted to give other mothers what nobody could give mine – the chance to see their children walk properly.”

Varghese, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after contracting pneumonia when she was six months old, is unable to walk, but she has use of her arms, even though her right one “rebels” against the messages her brain sends it.

“My left arm works, but with my right arm I have to try a little harder,” smiled Varghese, who had to be home-schooled after a painful back operation when she was 13 which left her flat on her back for six months and wearing a brace.

“I was very depressed because I wanted to go back to school and I was bored at home, but then when I was 19 I watched a young girl on Oprah who was helping orphans from her hospital bed by raising money to pay for them to go to school. I thought ‘hey, I could do that’.”

Since then the slight young woman with a wicked sense of humour and irrepressible laugh, who lives with her parents, teachers Anne and Benny and siblings Kevin, 17, and Neethu, 23, has raised thousands of dollars for campaigns close to her heart.

To draw attention to refugees living in poor conditions in Western Sahara, she even made a televised tandem leap off Signal Hill in April and paraglided to the beachfront bellow in her wheelchair. She has also zip-lined in Tsitsikamma.“I’m an adventurous spirit, but my body puts the breaks on me and it’s frustrating. I wanted to skydive but my doctor said no to that.”

By tirelessly writing her blog and posting on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube got people all over the world to part with a total of $10 000.for the Smile Train, a charity which provides corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates.
“Now 41 children can talk properly and eat properly and all because I am alive.”

– Anyone wanting to donate to 50 New Feet can access crowdrise.com/50newfeet or, to read Varghese’s blog, go to nishav360.com.- barbarah@dispatch.co.za

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