Providing Children a New Lease of Life
An interview with 29-year old Nirmala Puri, who works as a Multi-Skilled Rehabilitation Assistant in the CBM supported ‘Inclusive Development of Children’ (IDC) project, which is being implemented by our partner Hospital and Rehabilitation Center for Disabled Children (HRDC) in Nepal.
What are your responsibilities in the IDC project? What does a normal working day for you look like?
I am working as a Multi-Skilled Rehab Assistant in the IDC project area in Gulmi. I spend most of my time visiting communities in four rural municipalities. My main focus is to reach out to children with disabilities. I visit every household in communities to identify children with disabilities, and then I assess their needs and make a rehab plan. I make appropriate referrals if the child needs physiotherapy, specialised assistive devices or surgical intervention. I also do follow-up visits post-treatment. I examine the condition of their assistive devices and make sure the children are continuing the post-intervention therapies. I have seen that there are chances of relapse due to the negligence of the family. So, I need to do rounds of visits after intervention as well.
Additionally, I visit local schools to run awareness classes and help students create inclusive child clubs. We also reach out to the local government to sensitise them about the rights of people with disabilities.
Do you remember any particular case that has stayed with you? Could you share with us?
Yes, there are many! Once we visited a very poor family where two children had clubfoot. The parents went to the HRDC hospital leaving two sons behind as caretakers. They are young boys in their early teens. Later, it became known that they mischievously caught and ate their neighbours' chicken!
The following day their parents arrived back from Kathmandu after treatment. Coincidentally, I was also there for a home visit. The neighbour had called the police due to the missing chicken, and they arrested the father. They decided to fine him 15,000 rupees (approx. 110 Euro). That is a huge amount for them. The father took out a loan by offering their small patch of land as collateral. The mother of the boys cried with me. The poor family had now extra loans to settle.
It pained me a lot. I decided to pay for their loan and freed their land. I also supported the father to get a small job in a hotel in Palpa (a nearby town). The father returned the money after six months.
I found that very absurd. It was a mischievous act by young boys and the community could have resolved it within themselves. But, they blew it out of proportion. It shows how poor people suffer. I remember it vividly.
That is quite tragic. Could you share any success story that makes you happy?
So many instances come to mind! We treated a boy with genu valgum (knock-knees). Both of his legs were bent inwards. He was having lots of difficulties due to that. It would take him an extra hour to reach his school. He could not walk fast, neither could he stand properly. When I asked him what he wishes to do after treatment, he answered me that he would like to stand properly on his feet and talk to me keeping eye-contact.
Later, he got surgeries on both his legs. His legs are now straight and he can stand properly. Now he can talk to me standing properly. I asked him if his wish was fulfilled and he nodded with a smile and said that he can talk to me standing on his feet. It makes me very happy. This motivates me to work harder.
I was about to ask you about the same. What motivates you to keep going?
The words coming straight out of one's heart can be very powerful. I find that many children are suffering due to poverty and disability and they get a new life after treatment. The family and children thank us from the bottom of their hearts and it motivates me a great deal. I initially joined HRDC because I needed a job, but now I feel I am working for a larger cause of human welfare. I learned a lot about disability rights over the years and I’m enjoying my work now.
The most important experience I gained is that earlier I used to see people with disabilities through a lens of pity and sympathy. But now I see them as equal human beings and from the right-based perspective.
What do you think about the CBM and HRDC partnership? Is there anything you want to say to CBM and our donors?
CBM’s support has been crucial to help rehabilitate people with various types of disabilities. Without the IDC project and CBM’s support, it would not have been possible to change the lives of all these children. We support families from an impoverished social and economic background, and they simply cannot afford expensive treatment and rehabilitation processes. The IDC project has made it possible for them. Now these children have new possibilities and chances. For me, CBM is not only a donor but a collaborator. I am happy that I could also be a part of this.
People earn money and keep it in their banks or buy properties. But if one wants to serve, they need to reach out to communities. I think CBM and its supporters are in the second category. More than money, you have supported with your heart. You have a big heart. Your contribution is beyond words and praises. Your support has reached out to deserving people. You have blessings of all those souls whose life has changed. I want to thank CBM and its donors from the bottom of my heart.