Jo, adopted mother to a child with cerebral palsy, Uma Moy Moy, is giving hope to thousands of children with similar conditions who struggle to gain acceptance.
The cards were stacked against Uma Moy Moy long before she arrived in this world. Uma is the 13th child of a potato farmer’s wife, who considered abortion before little Uma arrived 12 weeks premature and ready to continue fighting for her life. Her silent plea was heard by Jo Chopra, a mother of two, based out of Dehradun, who decided to adopt Moy Moy and give her a real home.
“I thought then that she would be able to lead a normal life – go to school, get a job in a flower shop, or something simple like that. I knew she wasn’t going to be an academic, but she was so able, funny, and engaging that I felt things would be fine,” Jo told The Better India.
The hopeful mother and daughter did not expect the surprises life had in store for them. At the age of six, Uma Moy Moy began to regress and was showing early signs of cerebral palsy, a muscular disability where there is a disorder of movement, muscle tone, and posture.
“It was like watching an elderly person with Alzheimer’s. She started to get seizures, forget things, she wasn’t getting her sentences right, she became ungainly, started to trip and fall,” Jo shared.
Jo’s two children, Anand (now 33) and daughter Cathleen (now 30) also grew very attached to Moy Moy (little sister in Cantonese). The family endured alongside Uma to help her overcome the challenges her disability posed, changing their lives around to meet her special needs.
“Traveling was hard. With Moy Moy, everything had to always be accessible, and nothing is accessible in India when it comes to people with disabilities, as you know,” said Jo.
After years of living with Uma, Jo deeply understood the struggles of a child with cerebral palsy. She awakened to a greater sense of purpose and decided to dedicate her life to empowering as many differently-abled children as she could.
In 1995, Jo started Karuna Vihar Special School – a school for children with disabilities along with the Latika Roy Foundation, a child development center and a center for vocational training. There is also a center at the Doon Hospital, where Jo’s staff run diagnostics and assessments. With a like-minded staff of 115 employees, they also run awareness campaigns for disabilities to garner maximum outreach and advocacy.
The first step towards change all starts with one step in the right direction!
“Many of our kids can manage independently with a bit of help, can hold down a job, and maybe even get married,” she said.
Uma Moy Moy (now 27 years old) cannot fathom the impact it has had in the lives of every disabled child through her mother and their special bond. After watching Jo’s TED Talk, Thermax’s Anu Aga was deeply moved by her story and came to Dehradun to hand Jo a check of 1 crore (160,000 USD). Her foundation has also received much support from the government as well as private institutions including Ratan Tata Trust.
At first, Uma Moy Moy’s life was off to a rough start as they struggled to find proper medical facilities and support systems that are essential for people with disabilities to merely survive, not to mention thrive. There were no therapists, specialists, or anyone knowledgeable enough for that matter. The concerted efforts of Jo Chopra and her foundation paved a way for all those in need receive support so that children no longer undergo unnecessary suffering.
Changing the world, one smile at a time!
Providing opportunities for children to experience a normal and proper childhood!
Jo’s life mission is to continue educating the world on the potential of a differently abled child. She believes that with loving care and proper attention, they can still have a normal and happy life. Ever since then, she has devoted all her time to spreading awareness to raise money for a cause that still doesn’t receive much attention in India. She has also given TEDx talks discussing her life and her foundation’s work. Watch it and spread the word!