Yangchen C Rinzin 

When Sapnam Adhikari went for a field visit to Draktsho East in Kanglung, Trashigang, in 2016, she felt the need to help persons with disabilities (PWDs).

The first thing she wanted to do was to make PWDs realise they can be independent. She also wanted others to understand PWDs better.

Sapnam and Abi Chandra, both graduates from Sherubtse College, then formed an initiative called “Youth initiatives for persons with disabilities” to help PWDs in their own capacity.

Their first initiative was to help build a house for Aum Buku, a person with a disability in Shongphu, Trashigang.

Aum Buku lived in a hut, which was not disability friendly for her two children who are also PWD.

Sapnam said it would not have been possible without the help of many people including gups and students from Sherubtse College, Ability Bhutan Society, local community volunteers, and donations from the people where a total of more than Nu 600,000 was raised to construct the house.

“I was happy that we were able to bring forward their story to people who later helped us to help Aum Buku,” she said. “I think we should help PWDs the way we can instead of only sympathising with them.”

For Abi, it was his social service interest that interested him to take such initiative and as a forum for international and national affairs (FINA) during his college days made it possible to help Aum Buku.

“Scouting is my religion and I put it into practice through services, kindness, and love towards the community,” he said. “I want to be a helping hand to those who needed it.”

The youth initiative is now trying to help another family where the sole bread earner is PWD from Bartsham, Trashigang. The family struggling to find a place to live and to make ends meet.

Sapnam said the family reside in other’s house, which is left as gungtong (empty household). “The owner might return any time and the family would have to vacate. They will become homeless.”

She said the eldest daughter in the family is also intellectually disabled and their hope is to at least help to build a house for them by raising funds. “People have been coming forward to help two children’s education. Many are also donating.”

However, the fundraising has been put on hold as of now.

Sapnam said they were unaware they needed permission from the home ministry to raise funds. “We are applying for the permission.”

Meanwhile, besides the two activities, they are also trying to create awareness for PWDs.

Sapnam said that most PWDs in rural areas still do not know how to avail help. “Those PWDs who are today independent are mostly in urban areas. Those in the rural areas do not even know they could study or avail help.”

With many PWDs in rural being discriminated against or left unattended and stigmatised, the initiative hopes to create awareness among people on disability through help from various disability organisations.

Edited by Tashi Dema