“Make Love Not Scars”

23-year-old woman runs first rehab clinic for acid attack survivors in India

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A recently-launched rehab clinic in New Delhi seeks to provide both sanctuary and practical assistance to women who have survived acid attacks. Founded by 23-year-old Ria Sharma, “Make Love Not Scars” offers survivors medical treatment, financial and legal support, vocational training, and psychological services. Recreational healing activities — like yoga and poetry classes — are also available. The center, according to PRI, is the first of its kind in India.

The idea for the rehab clinic was born several years ago, when Sharma, who is now 23, decided to film a documentary about acid attack survivors. She spent time in a government hospital burn ward, and was shocked by the suffering she witnessed there. “The things I saw in the ward left me forever changed,” she told PRI. “I had never witnessed so much misery all at once, I had never been surrounded by so much pain. When you are in that situation you have two options, you could either return to the comfort of your own life or you could try and make someone else’s life comfortable.”

In 2014, Sharma launched the Make Love Not Scars website, which provided a forum for survivors to share their stories through weekly video blogs. But realizing that acid attack survivors were in desperate need of multifaceted support, Sharma decided to create a center that would cater to their emotional, financial, and legal needs. For the most part, the Make Love Not Scars Rehab is supported by donations, although the center has also appealed to the Indian government for financial assistance.

Acid attacks are a pervasive problem in India, with some 1,000 incidences reported to police each year. Many more women, according to Acid Survivors Trust International, do not report attacks. Sharma told PRI that she hopes her center will help survivors recover in comfort while pushing their lives forward. “I feel really good about the direction we are heading in,” she said. “I think the existence of such a center is going to be extremely instrumental towards changing the lives and future of acid attack survivors.”

Read the full story at PRI.

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