Acknowledged to Accompany: NCCI -IDEA Acknowledged and Honoured COVID Heroes for their Exceptional Contributions to Persons with Disabilities

The NCCI Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (IDEA) Acknowledged and Honoured COVID heroes serves as a testament to the transformative power of selfless service and the unwavering spirit of compassion. It sets a commendable example for the ecumenical accompaniment and reaffirms the commitment of the NCCI to advocate for the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities in India.

In an inspiring event held at the UELCI campus Chennai, NCCI-IDEA honored the unsung heroes who selflessly served persons with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NCCI Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment (IDEA) Award ceremony showcased the extraordinary efforts made by individuals and organizations to create a barrier-free church and society for all.

Out of a staggering 50 applicants from across the nation, NCCI selected the most deserving candidates in three distinct award categories. Esteemed paediatrician and Disability activist, Dr. Aiswarya Rao, had the privilege of presenting the awards to the remarkable COVID heroes, whose dedication and commitment shone through their exceptional achievements.

In the Individual Category, Mr. Sandeep Paul, the project coordinator for UNNATHI – Disability project, stood out for his outstanding coordination and resource mobilization efforts. Despite limited resources, Mr. Sandeep effectively supported individuals with disabilities by implementing training programs and raising awareness during the pandemic.

The Institution Category witnessed the recognition of the CSI School for the Intellectually Disabled, a residential school that defied government orders to send children home. With immense compassion, the school decided to keep around 30 inmates, including orphans, and extended their reach to over 100 kilometers to support 110 persons with disabilities.

In the Church Initiative Category, the Shaphiro initiative led by H.G. Dr. Yuhanon Mar Diascros Metropolitan and a group of passionate laity members received well-deserved accolades. The online glocal initiative connected more than 25 families from the Indian Orthodox community across India, the Middle East, Europe, and the ANZ region. The regular online fellowships for “Shaphiro” families and special needs children since December 2021 have had a profound impact on the lives of participants.

The award ceremony created a significant impact on the audience, which included representatives from various churches, institutions, and theological colleges. The COVID heroes shared their inspirational stories, shedding light on the challenges faced by persons with disabilities and the tireless efforts undertaken to support and empower them.

By recognizing these exceptional individuals and initiatives, NCCI IDEA aims to encourage and inspire others to work towards the creation of an inclusive society. The event highlighted the significance of collaborative efforts in fostering a just community where all individuals, regardless of their disabilities, can flourish and thrive.

Churches Challenged to Embrace Disability Inclusion at Workshop Organized by NCCI-Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment and Engage Disability

To promote inclusivity and make people with disabilities feel welcomed in churches, a workshop on disability inclusion was held on 14th June 2023 led by NCCI-Indian Disability Ecumenical Accompaniment and Engage Disability. The workshop challenged participants to think beyond the statement which they made initially from “We don’t have a person with disability in our church so we have to be a welcoming church”. The goal of the workshop was to equip churches with the tools they need to make their spaces welcoming to people with disabilities and to encourage their active involvement. The event aimed to equip churches with the necessary tools to create an inviting atmosphere for people with disabilities and encourage their active participation within the church community.

The workshop commenced with an engaging activity focused on raising awareness about disabilities. Participants were divided into pairs, with one person assuming the role of a person with a disability by having their hands and legs bound or their eyes covered. The other partner acted as their guide. By sharing personal stories and recounting the challenges faced during the activity, participants were encouraged to develop empathy and a deeper understanding of the experiences of individuals with disabilities.

One of the key highlights of the workshop was the introduction of the Disability Inclusion Audit for Churches in India, a tool for ongoing self-assessment and progressive improvement of churches created by Engage Disability. This tool provided participants with the means to conduct ongoing self-assessments of their church’s inclusivity practices and identify areas for improvement. During the session, pastors and church leaders had a unique opportunity to familiarize themselves with the Disability Audit Toolkit, enabling them to take proactive steps towards promoting disability inclusion within their congregations.

Through the workshop, attendees gained insight into their current disability inclusion practices. Participants highlighted areas where their churches excelled while also identifying areas that required further development and attention. The dedication exhibited by the participating churches towards promoting disability inclusion was evident in the workshop’s outcomes.

In addition to equipping attendees with practical tools, the workshop emphasized the significance of engaging with disability-related policies, particularly the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016-2017, as published in the Gazette of India. By actively involving themselves in disability-related policy discussions, churches can positively impact the lives of individuals with disabilities and foster inclusivity, advocacy, and support within their communities.

The workshop, conducted in collaboration with the Nagpur Ecumenical Fora and Nagpur ED Hub, witnessed the active participation of 25 pastors from various denominations, institutional heads, and church member

s from Nagpur. The diverse representation of individuals showcased the collective commitment to promoting disability inclusion within the church community.

With the tools and knowledge gained from this workshop, participants are now motivated to develop more accessible and inclusive venues with the right attitude towards inviting people with disabilities to their places of worship.