RealSelf Sponsors Camp Aashakiran

For the past six years, Dr. Vinita Puri, professor and head of the plastic surgery department at KEM hospital in Mumbai, India, has been co-director at Camp Aashakiran (formerly Camp Karma), a recreational camp for young burn survivors. India has a great need for this type of camp, given that over 1.5 million children sustain burns every year. The camp is a safe haven for survivors and is designed to break stigmatic cultural norms.

 Since 2018, the camp has been sponsored by RealSelf, the destination for people to learn about cosmetic procedures, share their experiences, and connect with top providers.

 The name Aashakiran is very positive, a combination of two words: Aasha, which means “hope” and Kiran, which means “rays”. And that’s what the camp is for many – a ray of hope.

 We recently spoke with Dr. Puri about the history of the camp and her hope for the future.

How did Camp Aashakiran start?

 We conducted our first camp in December of 2013. The idea was introduced by Mr. Samuel Davis of Burn Advocates Network from New Jersey. They were running a camp in Israel and he wanted to finance one in India too. I understand that they had contacted many plastic surgeons in India but no one agreed to organize the camp. That was the beginning of our journey. Through Burn Advocates Network, my co-director and I visited the Israel camp to get a better understanding of the vision for the camp.

Camp Aashakiran, organised by the department of plastic Surgery at KEM hospital, is now India’s only recreational camp for children with burn scars that affect their appearance and use of their limbs. My co-director is Dr. Venkateshwaran, consultant Plastic Surgeon of Jupiter Hospital in Thane and a visiting consultant at KEM. 

What is the camp’s mission?

Our mission is to bring together child burn survivors in atmosphere of friendship and happiness to improve their self-confidence and sense of belonging.  As surgeons, we have already taken care of the physical injuries caused by the burns in our young children. This camp is our attempt to help them to heal the mental and psychological trauma caused by the burn injury.

Why is this camp especially important to the girls of India?

Many of the parents of the girl burn survivors are worried the girl will “never get married.” This has negative impact on the child as she grows. So they end up being non-participative in school and lose their self confidence.

Tell me about the most recent camp.

This year (2019), Camp Aashakiran took place in early November at Rivergate Resort Karjat. Twenty-five burn survivor children, 13 boys and 12 girls, attended the camp supported by 10 volunteer counselors.

The children, who ranged in age from seven to 15 years, were engaged in a variety of activities ranging from simple tasks to complex mental tasks which helped them use the healing power of arts, dance, drama, indoor and outdoor games. We had painting, dance, science activities, skit preparation etc. This allowed the burn survivors to forget their scars and the associated functional issues and helped them learn to better cope with them.

How do you anticipate the camp changing and growing in the future?

I hope that more surgeons take the lead and organize camps like Camp Aashakiran in other parts of the country. Organization of burn camps as part of the rehabilitation process of a burn survivor is a well-known, well-accepted and evidence backed technique.