N S Hema Memorial Day & Award Ceremony 2020

 N S Hema Memorial Day & Award Ceremony 2020

Owing to the COVID pandemic, this year’s celebration was a mix of online and offline events. The program on the day itself, Oct 4, was conducted online, with viewers from across the world. The love and support that our founder N S Hema evoked in the hearts of thousands, was palpably evident as people shared memories and experiences with Hema and APD.

The event also included the 4th N S Hema Memorial Award presentation. The “N S Hema Award for Outstanding NGO in Disability” is an annual award given in special recognition to an NGO with excellent work in the field of disability in Karnataka. The winner is awarded ₹1,00,000 and a citation. The Governing Board of APD instituted the award to spread and drive the mission Hema started half a century ago.

In this post, we share some of the program highlights. The program recording is included at the end of the post.

Prayer and invocation

The program was hosted by A L Janardhan (Deputy Director, Programs), Devikala (Coordinator, IDRR) and Shailaja who provided sign language support throughout the session.

The program started with a simple prayer ceremony for N S Hema conducted by APD CEO, Mr. V R K Nakkina and staff. This was followed by an invocation song from Mythili, Accountant at APD, who has been with the organization for 30 years. She was deeply inspired by N S Hema.

Welcome speech

Mr. Subir Hari Singh, President of the APD Board, addressed the viewers next. He remembered Hema’s vision of a lifecycle approach towards rehabilitating persons with disabilities, which APD delivers on. He thanked all the NGO participants who applied for the N S Hema Memorial Award and the jury members who verified the applications in great detail. He also thanked Mr. Murray Culshaw, who so kindly agreed to deliver the 3rd N S Hema Memorial Lecture.

This was followed by a short video on APD’s history since 1959 and progress to date.

The 3rd N S Hema Memorial Lecture

Mr. Murray Culshaw has been a longtime friend of the social sector in India. Born in Kolkata, he went to Britain for his education but returned to work in Tumkur. In the 1960s, he met Hema, and there began a long relationship with APD. Mr. Murray is currently a member of the board of Sense International India, and chair of the board at Mahiti.

In his lecture, Mr. Murray talked about the need for CSOs in society. The government can produce policy but not care with love, that comes from CSOs. Without CSOs, society cannot be humane.

He remembered global personalities who became heroes of the social sector, with or without their disability, people like Helen Keller, and in Bangalore, N S Hema. It is important to look back at Hema’s personality and her core values and to take them forward into our own lives.

Mr Murray points out three (among many) of Hema’s values: Integrity (he remembers how she returned funds granted by an agency that did not align with her values); Determination (how she always looked at what could be done next, a quality that has become the DNA at APD, as it constantly expands and explores new avenues to support persons with disability; not many organizations (even globally) have such a range of services); and Commitment (how Hema stayed with APD all her life, never swayed, despite challenges).

He shared some memories with Hema, how the first fundraising letters were sent and the joy they experienced when the funds came in; how they contact Chris Underhill and started the Horticulture Therapy at APD which is a legacy among others; and his final memory when Hema passed away, after living a life where she gave so much and left behind a legacy for all APDians to take forward.

CEO’s address

Our CEO, Mr. Nakkina explained the selection process for the N S Hema Memorial Award. The jury consisted of board members and representatives of the government sector and the donor community. There was a screening process for the 26 applicants, two rounds of interviews of the 6 shortlisted NGOs, and a detailed review was conducted.

The shortlisted NGOs included:

  • Asha Sadan Special School
  • Welfare Society Ernakulam
  • Bijapur Integrated Rural Development Society
  • Akshadaa Foundation
  • Agni Raksha
  • Roshni Trust

N S Hema Memorial Award Winner 2020

This year’s winner was Agni Raksha, an NGO that provides a holistic rehabilitation process for burn victims from poor families, especially women and children. This includes comprehensive medical treatment and opportunities for income generation.

The founder, Dr. Chitra, thanked APD for the award and remembered her time with N S Hema, who was a mentor and inspiration. Dr. Chitra was part of the Outreach program that Hema had initiated. Dr. Chitra remembered her learning and resolved to use the award money carefully and in alignment with N S Hema’s vision.

The work and dedication of the other shortlisted NGOs were also honored with a trophy and certificate.

Song by SIS children

The Shradhanjali Integrated School was a great source of joy in Hema’s life. How could the program be complete without a song by the wonderful children?

Disability Commissioner’s address

V S Basavaraju, the Disability Commissioner, has been part of the APD family for many years and has worked with Hema for over 30 years. He remembered her and her family’s significant contributions to APD’s growth. Hema’s family played a pivotal supporting role in hosting activities and facilitating much of the work at APD.

He remembered the depth of Hema’s mentorship, how she helped people at APD understand disability as a holistic issue that affected the individual and the family. That is why family and community has become a critical element of all APD’s programs. He also acknowledged her insights that are helping him work better as a Disability Commissioner.

He credited improvements in the disability sector in North Karnataka to APD, its innovation, support for other NGOs, and depth of the programs. He reminded us all of the responsibility and opportunity we have to make a difference and to make Hema’s dreams a reality. Hema created a strong foundation by building APD and also people who are committed to the cause.

N S Hema’s family gives tribute

Mr. Srinivas Garudachar, a family member, shared tributes on behalf of Hema’s sister Kamudhini, and relatives from 17th Cross Malleshwaram. They remembered Hema’s qualities – determination, dedication, steadfastness, and precise planning that made APD a possibility. They also remembered her neat house that emanated perfection.

Mr. Srinivas recalled Hema as the biggest stalwart he has known. Her selfless commitment despite her shyness, made her go to incredible lengths in service of underprivileged persons with disability. She exhibited great qualities – management skills, attention to detail to address grassroots issues, risk and adventure, as well as sensitivity, sense of aesthetic, and a complete lack of interest in fame.

Vote of thanks

The vote of thanks was given by Mr. Hiremath, Director, Programs.

National anthem

The program ended with the National Anthem, played in sign language.

Please watch the recording of the program here.


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