Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Chair for Sonali

I thought I’d share a set of photos showing you a few days at work.

Sonali is 5 years old and has had Cerebral Palsy since she was born prematurely. This has affected her development and Sonali isn’t able to sit, crawl, walk or feed herself, but is very talkative (even saying a few words in English now!) and loves playing games! She lives in a small village about 10km outside of Puri with her large extended family. After meeting Sonali and her family a few times, myself and her field worker thought it would help Sonali if she had somewhere to practice sitting in her home. At the moment she spends a lot of her time lying down on a mat on the floor and so doesn’t get to practice sitting up. After discussing the plan with our colleagues we recruited Pravakar, one of the other field workers to help us build her a chair specially shaped to give her the support she needs.

As Sonali’s family are very poor we had limited resources to make the chair from, so we loaded our bicycles up with some wood and tools and headed to her home. Her parents had managed to salvage from bricks from another part of their house and had made some cement from mud from the stream near the village. We cleared a spot in her house that we thought would be a good space for her to have a chair, it’s close by where the cooking is done so if Sonali’s sitting in the chair her mother can keep an eye on her and make sure she’s ok.

Our materials....
This is Pravakar laying the first set of bricks for the base of the chair.

I managed to stay quite mud-free as I didn't think my brick laying skills were quite ready for this so I held onto the tape measure to make sure it would be a good fit for Sonali.

This is the chair at the end of day one. The metal rods are making space for holes to put the table top onto. Sonali's mum fed us with banana and coconut paranthas (yum yum) before we headed off into the sunset to leave the chair to dry over the weekend.

On Monday we went back to the house and checked the table top we had prepared earlier would be a good fit.We then padded the edge with some foam and tape to make sure it would comfortable but supportive for Sonali's chest.This is Jagannath checking the shape of the foam for the backrest and seat.The first test run! We had to distract her with toys to make sure the chair would be a good fit and give her enough support to sit on her own. We covered all the foam sections with some plastic coated canvas from an old sign so that it would be more durable and would stay dry as the chair is in an outdoor courtyard.

This is the finished result!

We're visiting again next week to try and find a way of keeping her ankles and feet in a good position but for now Sonali seems happy and comfortable in her new chair. They've come into our physio centre a few times this week and her Mum says she's enjoying having her very own chair to sit in for meals and play.


  1. Wow, great story! I love Indian innovation!

  2. Great story Lucy. Got a little emotional reading it. Well done girl (as my Granny used to say)

  3. You are the true McGyver!!!
    Fantastic story, glad you shared hun! :)