… the institute is now a fully accessible centre 

Neten Dorj | Kanglung

Life was not easy for Tenzin Wangchuk from Trashiyangtse who enrolled in Draktsho-East in Kanglung, Trashigang. Every day he needs two friends to enter the classroom and return to the hostel. He is one of the wheelchair users.

Those difficult days are now history. The Opening Your Heart to Bhutan handed over all accessible facilities to the institute on November 19.

Spending over Nu 14.16 million, Opening Your Heart to Bhutan supported the building of ramps, railings, a dining hall and kitchen, a hostel, an academic block, a children’s park and other facilities.

Students of Draktsho -East welcomed the facilities.

“Thanks for supporting me and others; these facilities will make a difference to my life and other wheelchair users,” said Tenzin Wangchuk.“Ramp and railing inside the institute immensely benefit us to access the classroom and other areas.”

In the past, it was difficult to get access to classrooms and the dining hall especially during monsoon. “Every time I step out, I need two people to accompany me to lift the wheelchair. Friends usually get angry when we fall down and it is exhausting for them,” said Tenzin.

Choyang Kuencha, 13, also a wheelchair user, shared similar experiences. He said, today the ramp is wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair and has made life easier.

“I no longer have to rely on others to support me. It allows me to use all facilities we have in the institute,” he said.

A country representative of the Opening Your Heart to Bhutan, Ugyen Tshering, said most premises and academic blocks, toilets and surroundings are equipped with disabled-friendly facilities.

“If we neglect disabled people in the community, it will be difficult for them to fit in the society,” he said. “There is still a lot of work to be done to make it accessible for them.”

He said they supported gradual improvements such as building a girls’ hostel, dining hall, kitchen and academic block and then making the surroundings friendly for all disabled people.

A student said that places outside of their premises are not disabled-friendly in Kanglung. “Even if we think of going out in the town, it is difficult for those wheelchair users,” he said, adding, a lot needs to be done.

Opening Your Heart to Bhutan also provides a monthly stipend for food.

Officials said that the community also needs to be engaged to know the reality of disabled people.

“If the government could give at least a monthly stipend for students of Draktsho like other students, it would reduce the burden on donors. Moreover, we need not depend on others,” said an official. “Support from locals  can make a big difference to disabled people.”