Child sitting on a steep hillside
By Michael Schmidt 13 Sep 2019 |

Barren surroundings lead to disabilities in children

 

In Nepal, people with disabilities have their everyday lives in the unsettled mountain areas, where they move safely around the outermost slopes. With a camera and a drone, Mission East's Communications Officer Michael Schmidt followed a family man and a schoolgirl's life on a steep hillside to an awareness campaign on people with disabilities.

Barren surroundings

 

It is not a charter trip to arrive at Thehe, a small village of Nepal. From Nepal's capital Kathmandu, we flew in a propeller plane between the mountains first to Nepalgunj and from there to Simikot, which is at an altitude of 3,000 m. For me - from flat Denmark - I had to wait a day to get used to the thin air before driving on in the jeep up the mountains, hiking for 2.5 hours on narrow winding paths until we reached Thehe.

Children with disabilities

 

Before coming to Thehe, I spent some time in Simikot, a town in the remote Humla area where our partner HEAD Nepal is headquartered. About 45 children with physical and visual impairment live and are taught at HEAD. They all attend the local school during the day, but before and after they learn useful skills at HEAD, such as Braille and computer use that will help them live with a disability.

Young girl who is physically impaired

In Simikot, I met Gaughora. She is 18 years old and has a visual impairment, and lives at the HEAD school. Because of her disability, she did not attend school until she turned 16. But even though she is older than the other students, she keeps up really well. She loves to sing traditional Nepalese songs and is hopeful about her future thanks to HEAD Nepal's efforts.

Child sitting on the edge

Thehe is on a mountain slope and the houses are built like terraces on top of one another. This means that the number of accidents is quite high as children descend from the unguarded terraces and are badly injured. Since there is no medical care for miles around and there are only limited resources to properly treat injuries, children often end up being disabled and having a permanent disability. A disability limits their ability to attend school and later work in the fields.

A man with disability

 

One of the days in Thehe I spent with Amarsingh and his family. When Amarsingh was 12, he stepped on a thorn while playing with his friends. The tower accidentally hit a nerve in his foot, so he lay in bed for two months without treatment. His mother looked after him but could not afford the right treatment. His leg was therefore never really healed and he will live the rest of his life with a deformity in his right leg.

Today, Amarsingh is married and has three children. Although he is unable to work on a farm like other men in the village or carry heavy things, he has not given up. With the help of Mission East, he has set up a vegetable garden and is able to support his family. He also shepherds his cattle in the inaccessible mountainous terrain.

"It is difficult to go up and down the mountain to graze the cattle," he says, " "But I have to do it despite my disability," he says.

Families of children with disabilities are the most vulnerable

During my journey, I saw why families with children with disabilities are some of the most vulnerable in every community. In an inaccessible area like Humla in Nepal, it is extremely challenging to have a disability, as both the infrastructure and the opportunities to educate are often against them. The experiences of my trip have given me a new understanding of the importance of our projects in the education of people with disabilities in the outermost regions.

Movie premiere October 10th at 19.00-21.00 hours

Mission East film about challenges and dreams

Together with the Danish Disability Association, is launching an information campaign on life as a person with disabilities in Nepal and Denmark. With support from the Danish Mission's Development Department and the CISU, communications officer Michael Schmidt traveled to Simkot and Thehe in May to film and interview some of the people with disabilities we support through our partner HEAD Nepal. The film will show the daily challenges people with disabilities have in the remote villages of the mountainous northeastern Nepalese province of Humla. The film also features people with disabilities from Denmark who tell about their challenges and dreams.

The film premieres on October 10 when it will be shown for the first time at the Danish Disability Organizations' House in Taastrup at 19-21 hours. You are welcome!

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