Yangyel Lhaden

Sangay Rinchen’s fascination with science continued despite not qualifying to pursue science stream in high school. While studying humanities in high school, he beat science students in science exhibitions.

He also participated in the national STEM Olympic Science Exhibition with his plastic carpet making machine and stood 11th out of 20 competitors in 2018. Since then he has been pursuing his passion learning from  any material available.

His proposal of a smart walking stick for the visually impaired has won a microgrant of Nu 40,000. The FabLAb, Thimphu has also committed to help him improve on his prototype.

“The micro-grant made it possible to further pursue my dream,” Sangay Rinchen said.

Microgrant is part of a project called “Understanding, Developing, and Supporting Meaningful Work for Adults with Disabilities in Bhutan: Networks, Communities, and Transition”, managed by Royal Thimphu College, University of Birmingham, and the University of Minnesota.

The project aims to study how such intervention could enhance social participation and employment opportunities if such facilities and support systems are made available for youth with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities in Bhutan, aged between 16 and 30, applied for a grant up to Nu 50,000 in June. The grant aims to support employment and other social and economic activities, including capital for start-up, school fees, transportation costs, and related costs for youths with disabilities.

The grant coordinator Sonam Tshewang, said that initially the microgrant aimed to help 10 youths with disabilities but after screening 43 proposals, 10 individuals and two group proposals were selected.

“The grant recipients would be mentored and assisted to use the fund effectively to enrich and empower themselves on a weekly basis for six months.”

Manish Koirala’s project proposal to open a grocery store in Gelephu received Nu 50,000. Manish Koirala underwent brain surgery when he was in class PP and since then faced difficulty in walking which also forced him to discontinue studies. He is 18-year-old now.

“He helps in my scrap business and handles the customers well,” Hari Maya Koirala, his mother said.

Besides the scrap business, she plans to open a grocery store for her son. “I will help my son to become independent and will assist him in the shop.”

Sukrayj Sherpa will open a print shop in Gesarling, Dagana with the help of the grant. The class 12 graduate said that there was no print shop in the area which also has a school.  “I’m looking forward to becoming an independent businessman.”

Group grants are given to Special Education Needs students from Tendruk Central School, Samtse for laptop and another group of youth with disabilities trained in multimedia at Changangkha for purchase of equipment.

Sonam Tshewang said that viability, future scope and their challenges were important to screen. For example, he said, opening a restaurant in Thimphu was not considered as it was expensive and non-viable but opening up a print shop near Gesarling in Dagana was considered as it was more viable and inexpensive.

“Considering the challenges of youth with disabilities, we’re mindful not to fund any activities that will further complicate their undertaking.”

Most recipients are opening small enterprises while a few individuals are given assistive technology such as laptops.