• Boniface Prabhu, India’s first Paralympic Medal winner and Padam Shri awardee, helps teach basic sign language lessons to 200 community members in Chandigarh
  • Boniface – the quadriplegic wheelchair tennis player – is leading the 30 day, 3,500 KM Thums Up VEER Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) road expedition to promote the cause of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs)

Chandigarh, November 11, 2016: Boniface Prabhu – Padam Shri awardee, India’s No. 1 wheelchair tennis player for years and the country’s first ever Paralympic medal winner – is on a mission. He is leading the 3,500 KM Thums Up VEER Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) road expedition, to create awareness and sensitize people to the cause of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs). During a stopover at Chandigarh, he addressed a gathering at GRIID (Government Rehabilitation Institute for Intellectual Disabilities) and taught more than 200 community members, the A, B, C of sign language. B.Ed students or those of Class 6, this was a unique occasion when they were together in the same class, learning their first lessons of a new language, together.

The Thums Up VEER Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) road expedition, was flagged off on November 9, from Jammu and KashmirOver the next one month, Boniface is participating in more than 50 events hosted and facilitated by India’s largest selling soft drink brand – Thums Up jointly with the American India Foundation a leading NGO. Boniface as the lead of the Thums Up VEER K2K expedition will meet thousands of people, students, government officers, civil society workers and sensitize them on various aspects and requirements of PWDs. He also aims to help train nearly 10,000 people in sign language and host awareness programs for them.

This engagement program and sign language training session was organized by Salaam Zindagi, a charitable trust which works with stakeholders to create a safe, secure, protected and healthy environment, jointly with AIESEC India – world’s leading youth organisation. The session witnessed participation from students, PWDs, NGOs and B.Ed applicants of Punjab University who are doing special courses on youth.

Maninder Singh Bajwa, CEO, Espranza Innovations Pvt. Ltd. and Ashish Sethi, CEO, Kandhari Beverages, the authorized franchise bottlers of The Coca-Cola Company in India were present at the session. They later flagged off Boniface Prabhu on his next circuit which will end in Delhi. A massive contingent of corporate employees and top Executives of some of the leading companies of the world are waiting to meet Boniface Prabhu in Delhi.

Speaking on the occasion, Amrinder Singh. Founder & CEO, Salaam Zindagi Charitable Trust, said, “We are happy to associate with Thums Up VEER K2K mission. The journey which Boniface Prabhu has embarked on will help in sensitizing people to learn and use sign language and motivate VEER’s (differently abled) to recognize and unleash their true potential. We support Boniface Prabhu for this noble initiative and hopeful about the positive change this mission will bring to the lives of PWDs in the country”.

Speaking at the flag off, Ashish Sethi, CEO, Kandhari Beverages Pvt Ltd, said, “Thums Up along with partners American India Foundation and Being Human, already run the VEER campaign, which trains PWDs to make them employable. We are now focusing on the softer aspects that help integrate PWDs into the mainstream, guided by govt’s Accessible India campaign. We are glad that Boniface is leading Thums Up VEER K2K and I can’t think of a better place and time to start this journey. I also cannot think of a more appropriate brand than Thums Up to undertake this mission. Thums Up believes that everyone has the potential within, to achieve everything they deserve and this is best articulated by its tagline – Main Hoon Toofani. I look forward to working with Boniface and reviewing the outcomes of this expedition.”

Elaborating on the Thums Up VEER K2K road expedition, Boniface Prabhu said, “While we are all focused on the core issues of technology, infrastructure, manufacturing etc, I believe that we cannot make the India of our dreams if we do not leverage the skills and the potential of the PWDs. While on one hand, we need to mainstream the PWDs and create opportunities for them, on the other we also need to be sensitive to their unique requirements. Being a quadriplegic myself, the onus was on me to take this step forward. I am hoping that this expedition will help set the ground for some meaningful interventions in this space. Let us make an Accessible India, as we make our India.

Thums Up VEER K2K expedition aims to:

  1. Promote and spread the use of sign language in India
  2. Understand the aims and aspirations of the differently-abled with a view to influence public policy which is beneficial for them
  3. Create a platform for exchange of ideas and best practices between PWDs
  4. And motivate and inspire the specially abled to unleash the potential within them

As per the 2011 census, there are 26.8 million PWDs in India and only 3% of them are gainfully employed. This is unlike some developed countries where the employment rate of PWDs is 30% to 50%. The World Bank estimates that by excluding PWDs from the mainstream leads an economy loses 3%-7% of GDP realization. Thums Up VEER K2K seeks to play a role in integrating PWDs into the mainstream.

Traversing the longitudinal plane of India, crisscrossing 14 cities, Boniface will aim to finish the journey in about 30 days involving over 200 hours of driving time. The expedition is also being supported by Being Human Foundation, Times Now, Indian Oil, Hindustan Coca-Cola and several others.

About Thums Up VEER program

Thums Up along with Being Human and American India Foundation launched VEER, a Campaign focused on unleashing the potential of the differently abled people in our country. Campaign VEER aims to address challenges such as inclusive education and employment, skill training and development, and advocating for disabled-friendly technology. With the support of its partners, the campaign is working at imparting vocational training to these individuals and ascertains their requirements so that they can be made job-ready. Hans Foundation has joined hands of the campaign a strategic partner.

About Coca-Cola and Citizenship

The Coca-Cola Company has always placed high value on good citizenship. At the heart of business is a mission statement called the Coca-Cola Promise — “The Coca-Cola Company exists to benefit and refresh everyone that it touches.” This basic proposition means that the company’s business should refresh the markets, protect, preserve and enhance the environment and strengthen the community. Coca-Cola India provides extensive support for community programs across the country, with a focus on education, health and water conservation. For further information on Company’s India operations and its products, please visit www.coca-colaindia.com

About AIF

The American India Foundation is committed to catalyzing social and economic change in India and building a lasting bridge between the United States and India through high-impact interventions in education, livelihoods, public health, and leadership development, with a particular emphasis on empowering girls and women to achieve gender equity. Working closely with local communities, AIF partners with NGOs to develop and test innovative solutions and with governments to create and scale sustainable impact. Founded in 2001 at the initiative of President Bill Clinton following a suggestion from Prime Minister Vajpayee, AIF has impacted the lives of 2.5 million of India’s poor and aims to reach 5 million by 2018-19.  Learn more at www.AIF.org

About Being Human – The Salman Khan Foundation

Being Human – The Salman Khan Foundation is a registered charitable trust set up in 2007. It works in the areas of education and healthcare for the underprivileged. www.beinghumanonline.com

About Salaam Zindagi

Salaam Zindagi Charitable Trust, an institution, established in 2008 with a vision “Safe, Secure, Protected and Healthy Environment for All”. It was brought into existence to serve as a link between those who have resources to share and those who are deprived of such resources and are in dire need of help. This organisation, through its various unique programs, is serving the humanity in all the possible ways and means. It is actively working in the fields of Health, Education and Community Development. It extends its support for the CAUSE, be it a help to the victims of Natural Disaster, financial support to a poor patient, Women and Child Welfare, Community rehabilitation or awareness campaigns.The Trust is a registered organization with UT Administration and with Income Tax Department. Government of India under Section 80G & 12A of INCOME TAX ACT, 1961, Chandigarh. Salaam Zindagi is also a registered organization with the NGO partnership system of Planning Commission, Government of India, details can be viewed www.ngo.india.gov.in. We have every faith in our people and hope that they will appreciate this sincere aspiration and help us generously in turning this aspiration into achievement. Our ultimate aim is to create awareness for charity among the people and serve humanity by all means.