Dharan (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Roads, traffic and little attention from health authorities can not make the lives of over 300 thousand disabled Nepalese easy. More often than not they are forced to live at home without being able to work and help their families. To restore hope to the hundreds of disabled people of Dharan (main city in eastern Nepal), Bruce Burk, American Protestant missionary, and his wife Sherry have begun to manufacture a tricycle designed for those who have lost the use of their legs (see video).
Burk and his wife arrived in Nepal a few years ago as a volunteer of the Baptist Global Response (BGR), an American Baptist community organization which funds development programs for needy people in different countries around the world, especially in Asia and Africa.
"When I arrived at Dharan - Burk said - I was struck by the awful living conditions of disabled people, in spite of the wheelchairs they were unable to leave their homes due to heavy traffic and unpaved roads." With the help of some Nepali friends, they began to design a tricycle rickshaw inspired by those used to carry tourists. Unlike wheelchairs, the craft designed by Burk has high wheels, a platform on which to rest bags and move objects and two handles positioned in front of the driver. This structure allows disabled people to travel even considerable distances independently, giving them the opportunity to work or take their children to school.
The initiative's success has prompted the Bgr to finance Burk and his wife, who about a year ago opened a workshop to build and sell tricycles. The shop is called Hope Haven and is now famous throughout the city. Each costs about 200 dollars to produce, but thanks to the organization's money the selling price is only 20.
Burk says that for the majority of disabled people earning a living is the real problem. The Hindu culture treats people with disabilities as a sign of bad luck and often marginalizes them by forcing them to a life of solitude. To dispel this myth, only people with disabilities work in the workshop. They have become a witness for the people who enter the store. "I hired these people not only to make tricycles - he says - but to give them a chance to rebuild their humanity." "When I opened it – he continues - I have took on three deaf children, two with polio and two young people with disabilities. None of them had any experience in welding, designing or manufacturing objects. The confidence gained from their work has allowed some to choose other types of work ". He said that recently one of two deaf children opened a factory in another part of town. The other young workers have instead now run the workshop.