• Boniface also lays the foundation stone for the revitalization of infrastructure at the Government Upper Primary Sanskrit School to provide students with better access to sanitation, clean drinking water and sports facilities under the Coca-Cola “Support My School” program
  • The revitalized school will be made friendly for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs)

Jaipur, November 16, 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 Jaipur, he visited the Government Upper Primary Sanskrit School and taught 150 primary students, the A, B, C of sign language. The sign language training class was organized when Boniface Prabhu was in this school to lay the foundation stone for the revitalization of infrastructure at the school. Upon revitalization, the school will have better access to sanitation and clean drinking water while also providing sports facilities to students under the Coca-Cola “Support My School” program. The school is being made friendly for PWDs as advised and advocated by Boniface Prabhu. This engagement program and sign language training session was organized by American India Foundation (AIF) jointly with the NGO – Roundtable India, Jaipur.

Present at this celebration of education and childhood were Tr. Ravi Utmani Chairman Roundtable India, Jaipur and Chandramohan Gupta, Director, Corporate Affairs, Coca-Cola India. These dignitaries later flagged off Boniface Prabhu for the next leg of the expedition, which will now halt at Ajmer.

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 passed through Amritsar, Chandigarh, Delhi and Gurgaon before reaching Jaipur. The expedition has covered 900 KMs over 7 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.

Speaking on the occasion, Tr. Ravi Utmani Chairman Roundtable India – Jaipur said, “Well rounded development of children must encompass building empathy within them and inculcating the values of inclusivity and equal opportunity. Today’s events, were hopefully an early induction for children to these virtues. We are thankful to the Thums Up VEER K2K expedition for driving by Jaipur and giving us this opportunity to participate in the mission. We support Boniface Prabhu for this noble initiative and are hopeful that this mission will bring about positive change. We also thank Coca-Cola India for helping us take on the revitalization of this school under the Coca-Cola Support My School program.”

Speaking at the flag off, Chandramohan Gupta, Director, Corporate Affairs, Coca-Cola India, 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