Pune-based girl Julekha represents India at Special Olympics 2019

Anvita Srivastava
Wednesday, 27 March 2019

She was the only one from State in India’s volleyball team, which won the bronze

PUNE: Julekha Shaikh (19), a differently abled girl, was the only one from Maharashtra to represent India at Abu Dhabi 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games. Shaikh grew up at Aniket Sevabhavi Sanstha, Bhugaon as she does not have a family of her own. But her set of challenges did not stop her from representing India in the recently conducted World Summer Games held from March 14 to March 21. Julekha’s volleyball team secured the third place and won a bronze medal.

When Julekha Shaikh was 8 years old, the police found her in an injured state at an accident site on the Shikrapur-Nagar Highway. The police were unable to trace her parents and having injured her leg in the accident, she was admitted to a government-run hospital in Shirur. After treating her injuries, she was sent to a local Child Reformation Centre. There on, she was shifted to various orphanages due to her condition and facing shortcomings to get along with other girls at other orphanages. In 2011, the Mahila Seva Mandal of Kothrud sent her to Kalpana Varpe and she finally found refuge at Aniket Sevabhavi Sanstha.

Kalpana Varpe said, “Julekha was a very hyper child and because of her disability she faced a lot of problems to settle down and none of the organisations were ready to take her due to her aggressive behaviour.”

Varpe added that she was always inclined towards sports and she decided to enrol her in sports to channelise her aggression and energy. Soon Julekha started playing sports like long jump, running, badminton and eventually volleyball. She also participated in different state and national level events and won multiple gold and silver medals. Her sports mentors Ashok Nangre and Santosh Dongre worked hard on her to improve her skills.

She also went to attend volleyball camps in Jharkhand, Gujarat, Kolkata and Punjab which eventually led to her selection in India’s team that represented at Special Olympics. 

Ashok Nangre, sports teacher and volleyball trainer said, “Julekha came to me three years back and at that time she had no idea about volleyball but she was excited to learn the sport. I trained her from zero but she is a very hardworking and her hard work and commitment towards the sports helped her in achieving the milestones like bronze medal at Special Olympics.”

Julekha’s journey to Abu Dhabi was not an easy one as she faced problems during her passport process. 

Kalpana Varpe said, “As she is an orphan with no identification, getting her passport took six months. Vijay Phalnikar of Apla Ghar helped us a lot to tackle the challenges while securing the passport.”

However, Julekha is happy that all her hard work has paid off. 

She said, “I was very excited to travel by aircraft for the first time. I am extremely proud to be a part of such a platform where people from 18 countries had participated.”

Julekha added, “I am proud that I was the only girl from Maharashtra in the Indian team. I was excited to play the Olympics. After winning the medal, everyone is giving respect and calling ‘ma’am’ to a mentally challenged girl like me.”

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