Neehaari Mandali The Healer For Burn Survivors

Neehaari Mandali: The Healer For Burn Survivors

Success Stories Women

In a world where burn survivors often find themselves facing not just physical scars but also societal challenges, Neehaari Mandali is on a mission to provide a lifeline through her Trust. Through the Burn Survivor Mission Saviour (BSMS) Trust, she strives to bring free reconstructive surgeries to those who need them the most. She not only intends to restore physical well-being but also empower survivors to reclaim their self-worth. Her selfless efforts are making a difference in the lives of burn survivors through supportive guidance.

Why she led the foundation of BSMS is a different story altogether. In 2009, Neehaari was only 20 years old when she got married. The marriage started well but it was hardly forty-five days when the man of her dreams started torturing and abusing her, both physically and mentally. Young Neehaari couldn’t bear the harassment and decided to end her life by dousing herself with kerosene. She suffered 55 per cent burns. As she hails from a middle-class family, it was very challenging for her family to get her reconstructive surgeries done. She had to undergo 28 reconstructive surgeries (some are still going on) and with God’s grace and support from great doctors, she has not paid for any of her surgeries. 

The burns inflicted during this traumatic incident became a turning point, leading her to recognize the need for support among burn survivors. That’s when she came up with the idea of doing something in this field. In 2012, she conducted a 5-day burns surgical camp with Dr. Lakshmi Saleem, a well-known plastic surgeon in erstwhile Andhra Pradesh. In that camp, over 47 patients were counselled and 25 reconstructive surgeries were facilitated.

In 2014, she led the inception of BSMS Trust and collaborated with the NGO Mana Janam to organize a mega health and burns awareness camp in a tribal area with a team of 32 doctors from seven different specialities, which resulted in the treatment of over 1050 patients. Today, the Trust, under the guardianship of Neehaari is providing free-of-cost reconstructive surgeries for post-burn deformity survivors.

“We have facilitated surgeries on 200+ cases from different parts of India. We want to create awareness for reconstructive surgeries and provide counselling for patients and their parents. Parents play a prominent role in burn survivors’ lives. Unfortunately, burns are considered taboo in our society, people don’t come and support them. We aim to break this taboo and change the perception around burn survivors,” emphasises Neehaari.

Inner Beauty Is More Important Than Physical Appearance

Neehaari Mandali, founder of Burn Survivor Mission Saviour (BSMS) Trust

When Neehaari got burned, she was in trauma for two to three years. She was in bed and could see her parents struggling financially. When she realised that she needed to overcome her dependence on her parents, she started reading motivational books. Gradually, she realised that she lost her skin, not her mental strength, and then there was no looking back. 

While commenting on the sad reality that people focus on the outer beauty of a person, she says, “When I visited Germany in 2014, I saw how people were polite and considerate to burn survivors, I decided I wanted burn survivors in India to be treated the same way.  If someone asks rude questions about scars from survivors, I immediately offer counselling to such people. It’s tough for burn survivors, especially those aged 15-18, as society tends to focus too much on looks. Men who’ve survived burns also struggle to find jobs.”

Neehaari teaches burn survivors to stand up for themselves and focus on their own well-being. To date, her trust has counselled over a thousand people, understanding that changing the whole society is challenging, but they can make a difference one person at a time.

Future Plans

Neehaari looks forward to organising more camps all over India. The Trust is working on establishing a hospital in Hyderabad. The emphasis is currently on post-burn treatment, but the aim is to shift towards fresh burn treatment to prevent post-burn deformities. This hospital aims to provide proper treatment, mental counselling, financial support and employment to burn survivors. Neehaari is also planning to add comprehensive rehabilitation services to empower burn survivors in their journey towards physical, mental, and societal recovery.

Neehaari explains, “While some doctors generously offer their support without charges, there are still expenses for necessities and staff salaries, so we need funds. Currently, the Trust receives support from two MNCs and CSR backing from Karur Vysya Bank.”

The Urgent Need For Increased Awareness

The number of burn cases in India is increasing annually, with approximately seven to eight million people experiencing burns each year, leading to 2.4 lakh fatalities and 3 to 4 lakhs facing deformities, according to the World Health Organization. Cases are on the rise, growing from thirty to fifty in the past year. Unlike acid attack victims who receive more government support, burn victims lack proper attention and statistics. Burn survivors, comprising 65% of women and the rest of men and children, require multiple surgeries, but awareness about administering first aid remains inadequate.

“To create awareness, we must first focus on students in schools and college levels and make them aware & understand that people with disabilities and deformities are part of society. Colleges should conduct workshops and seminars to make students aware of these victims and the difficulties that they face. By doing this, we can bring an overall change,” asserts Neehaari. 

Message From Neehaari Mandali

Be yourself and embrace the scars on your body as they make you unique. When people notice you, be proud of those scars because they make you unique and different from others. Stand on your feet and help others. Always be unique.

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