Boniface Prabhu – world champion, quadriplegic wheelchair tennis player and team Thums Up are on a 30 day, 3,500 KM Thums Up VEER Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) road expedition to sensitize people and help in the Govt’s “Accessible India” campaign

Tilonia, Ajmer, November 17, 2016: Thums UpIndia’s largest selling cola soft drink and Boniface Prabhu – Padam Shri awardee, India’s No. 1 wheelchair tennis player for years and the country’s first ever Paralympic medal winner – are on a mission. This team is covering 3,500 KMs on road from Kashmir to Kanyakumari to create awareness and sensitize people to the cause of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs), as a part of the Thums Up VEER Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) road expedition. The expedition took a slight detour to Tilonia today, when the Thums Up expedition team came to know that they had an opportunity to meet Mr. Bunker Roy, Gandhian, expert on empowerment and self-sustenance and founder of Barefoot College.  As per the original route plan, the expedition was to move from Jaipur towards Udaipur, crossing Ajmer, en route.

Elaborating on the context of the meeting and the stopover at Tilonia, Kamlesh Kumar Sharmamember of team Thums Up and Director, Public Affairs & Communication, Coca-Cola India, said, “Boniface Prabhu, who is leading the expedition and the Thums Up team who is accompanying and supporting Boniface believe that the solutions to the problems of any community, lies within the community itself. This is why, Boniface, who is a quadriplegic, chose to take on this mission himself, in the first place. Barefoot College on the other hand, is the most potent exponent of this thought process and has shown the world, how a community itself experiments and learns to solve its own problems. The Thums Up team therefore grabbed the opportunity to meet Mr. Bunker Roy and get more insights from him on how to make Govt’s “Accessible India” program, a mission for everyone including the PWDs.”

During the stopover at Barefoot College, Tilonia, Boniface Prabhu also addressed the solar Grandmothers and taught them basic sign language. This was a unique occasion when Solar Engineer Grand Mothers from across the world, training at Barefoot College on solar lantern assembly, repair and maintenance, further sharpened their skills on sign language. It is well known that Solar Grandmothers who come from many different parts of the world, do not speak a common language and rely on hand movements and gestures to convey their sentiments.

Later, Mr. Bunker Roy, Founder – Barefoot College and Kamlesh Kumar Sharma, Director, Public Affairs & Communication, Coca-Cola India, flagged off Boniface Prabhu for the next leg of the expedition, which will now halt at Udaipur.

Speaking on the occasion, Bunker Roy, Founder, Barefoot College, said, “Not many may be aware that the Solar Grand mothers who come to train here are taught pictorially since there is no common language between them. While communication is our biggest boon it could also turn to be a barrier. This is where I see the importance of a well understood and well accepted language. We are happy to associate with Thums Up VEER K2K mission towards making India more accessible. The journey which Boniface Prabhu has embarked on, will help in sensitizing people to learn and use sign language and motivate PWDs to recognize and unleash their true potential. We support Boniface Prabhu on this noble initiative and are hopeful about the positive change this mission will bring to the lives of PWDs in the country”.

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.

The Thums Up VEER Kashmir to Kanyakumari (K2K) road expedition, was flagged off on November 9, from Jammu and KashmirDuring the week, the expedition has stopped at Amritsar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Gurgaon and Jaipur before reaching Ajmer. The expedition has covered 1000 KMs over 8 days, stopping at several places to attend events, meetings and sign language training classes, all aimed towards an Accessible India. Over the next three weeks, Boniface will participate in more than 40 events hosted and facilitated by India’s largest selling soft drink brand – Thums Up jointly with the American India Foundation a leading NGO.

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