Prabin, 6, was born without the lower part of his right leg. Humanity & Inclusion’s team first met him five years ago when his family was referred to a rehabilitation center in Biratnagar, Nepal. Since then, he’s advanced by leaps and bounds.
It wasn’t until Prabin’s mother, Sunita, was well enough to return home from the hospital that she realized something was wrong. Her baby boy had been born missing the lower part of his right leg.
“I felt very disappointed and asked my husband why he didn’t tell me before,” Sunita explains. “He said that the doctor told him not to discuss this condition with me because I was so unwell that it could make me more nervous and that would be dangerous.”
The first years of Prabin’s life were difficult for Sunita and the family. They loved their little boy but the community wasn’t very accepting of children with disabilities.
“Because of his disability, I couldn’t stop worrying about his future,” Sunita adds. “It seemed like nobody could help us. But then a social worker told us about the rehabilitation service at Biratnagar supported by HI, and then everything changed.”
Small patient, big challenges
The family first visited HI’s local partner, Community Based Rehabilitation Center, in Biratnagar when Prabin was just 18 months old. At first, Sunita and her husband had their doubts. Ambika Sharma, an expert in artificial limbs and braces for HI’s partner organization, guided them through the process.
“I had no idea that these types of services existed,” Sunita says. “My husband and I really doubted that my son would be able to walk, but Ambika explained how the device would work and how it could help him. We were convinced.”
Ambika recalls meeting the family for the first time.
“He was the youngest child we ever supported at the center,” she explains. “It was my first time making a leg for a 1-year-old child and our first attempt was not successful at all. The measurement was slightly inaccurate and we could not attach it to his leg. But we persevered and on the second attempt it was perfect.”
After that, it wasn’t long before Prabin was up and about on his new leg. When Sunita brought Prabin back to the center, he had already made amazing progress.
“It was a wonderful change in our little boy,” Sunita says. “He accepted his leg right away and just began playing, running, and even jumping like any other child of his age.”
He loves to play
To Sunita’s delight, after he was fitted with his artificial limb, Prabin was accepted into their local school.
His parents had to leave very early each morning for work, so the young boy learned to get himself ready, lock up the house, and walk to the bus stop all by himself. On top of that, he also had daily exercises to do and he had to clean and take care of his prosthesis.
The first few months weren’t easy and he was really shy around other children and his teacher. But it wasn’t long before his personality started to shine through.
You wouldn’t believe Prabin was ever shy when you see him today – he is full of energy and the life and soul of the classroom.
He’s also the fastest runner and the highest jumper at playtime. Most of all, though, he loves to play soccer.
“When he sees a soccer ball, he can't keep calm,” says Benita, his teacher.
But school isn’t just fun and games for Prabin.
“He’s an intelligent and obedient student,” Binita adds.
‘They will outgrow their prosthesis’
Recently Prabin returned to the center to see Ambika and receive a brand new artificial limb, his fourth device over the last five years. His old one was adjusted several times but is now too small.
“Growth is an important aspect when working with children,” Ambika explains. “As their bodies change, their prosthesis has to be adapted or changed to accommodate them. Just as they outgrow shirts, pants, and shoes, they will outgrow their prosthesis.”
Prabin can’t wait to try out his new leg, but it’s slightly too big when Ambika first puts it on. She adjusts it until it’s perfect.
Unisha, 13, lives in Biratnagar, Nepal. Born without her right leg, she’s been autonomous for nearly a decade with support from Humanity & Inclusion’s partners.
Unisha lives with her parents and paternal grandmother in a three-room house surrounded by rice fields in Nepal’s southern plain called Terai region. An only child, she was born with just one leg due to a congenital disease called limb agenesis.
Unisha’s parents were anxious about her future. They feared that she would never be independent; that she wouldn’t be able to go to school or have a social life and that she would suffer from being stigmatized. Also, because one of her parents had to stay at home to look after her, their income was reduced. The challenges and worries for her family were considerable, but Unisha's parents didn’t give up and were there for each other.
“People blamed me for giving birth to a child with just one leg,” says Anita, Unisha's mother. “My husband is the only one who has always supported me. But I never gave up and I promised myself that one day my daughter would walk, whatever it took.”
A door opens
Unisha was 4 years old when her parents heard through local outreach teams about the HI-supported rehabilitation center in Biratnagar, only a few miles from their home.
With this news, a door opened up for them and they seized the opportunity it provided. They took Unisha to the center where they met the local teams of prosthetic technicians and physical therapists. They were told what the center could offer Unisha: a new artificial limb every two years (or more often if necessary), long-term support and monthly physical therapy sessions.
“Fortunately, we met Ambika, an orthotics and prosthetics technician working with HI’s partner,” Anika says. “She has been a vital support for us, especially for me. It would have been a bleak existence for my daughter if we hadn’t met Ambika."
A few months after this first meeting, Unisha received her first artificial leg. Since then, she has visited the center every three months. Ambika, who has worked with Unisha from the beginning, adapts her artificial limb to her growth and shows her new exercises to do every day to improve her physical condition.
“I’ve known Unisha since she was little,” Ambika explains. "At first, she was reluctant to use the prosthesis. It hurts at first; you have to get used to it. But gradually, after six months or so, she accepted it. After that, she couldn't be parted from it. She didn't even want to take it off to go to bed!"
HI’s local partner, Community Based Rehabilitation Center-Biratnagar takes a holistic approach to patients. Its actions are designed to cover all their needs:
- Establishing contact via the outreach team;
- Thorough rehabilitation assessment to identify the needs and physical therapy sessions;
- Taking measurements of the person’s stump;
- Making the artificial limb or brace with materials available locally;
- Train users to gain confidence on the use of their artificial limb in their own environment;
- Regular follow-up every three months or when needed;
- Replacing the mobility aid every two years or when needed;
- Providing physical therapy sessions.
A future like everybody else
As soon as Unisha received her artificial leg, she enrolled in school. She now goes to studies at a private school 2.5 miles from her home, where all the classes are in English. Every day, the school bus picks her up at 9 a.m. and brings her back at 4:30 p.m.
From day one, she wanted to be like everyone else. A lot of people don't even know that Unisha has an artificial leg.
"She makes a point of doing everything like the others and doesn't accept any special treatment," says Priti, her social studies teacher. "I’d been working here for a few months when Unisha took me aside to show me her leg and told me about her experience. I was so moved it brought tears to my eyes. I hadn't noticed a thing before that. I was touched by her trust in me and I admired her strength of character and lust for life.”
In the future, Unisha would like to do social work so that she too can help others. Her experience has given her this open-mindedness and desire to be useful. Her teachers have no doubts about her future. If she continues like this, she will be able to do whatever she wants.
"Thanks to the rehabilitation care provided by HI, the other children treat my daughter like one of their own because now she can walk and communicate like everyone else,” Anita adds. “It would be a disaster if we didn't have this help."
Unisha has proven that an adjustment can open doors, including the door to a dignified and autonomous future. Every human being should have this opportunity. Yet there are many people in Nepal for whom it is not the case. HI is working to extend its presence and reach in Nepal through its many local partners and its five rehabilitation centers in different parts of the country.
Priti, 6, lives in Biratnagar, Nepal. After her mother experienced labor complications, Priti was born with cerebral palsy. Priti and her family met Humanity & Inclusion’s local partners two years ago and have been receiving support ever since. They tell us about their journey, their progress and their hopes for the future.
Priti lives with her mother Uma, her paternal grandparents and her twin brother. Her father, Deepak, works in Qatar to support his family and only visits every two years.
When the twins were born, Priti’s twin brother came into the world first. Complications set in with Priti, who remained stuck for 25 minutes. Those minutes were life-changing. She ran out of oxygen, causing irreversible damage to her brain.
"At the time, we had no idea how the situation would develop,” Uma explains. “The doctor didn't tell us anything. It was only after 8 months, when her brother started to crawl and roll over, that we noticed something was wrong. She slept all the time, she couldn't move and her hands made strange movements.”
As the weeks went by, Priti's family began to understand the consequences of the oxygen deprivation at birth. The little girl had no control over her limbs and was unable to speak. She was completely dependent on her family for everything: feeding, drinking, bathing, sitting.
With time, she has developed ways of communicating with her family and today she is able to make her basic needs understood through looks, gestures and sounds.
Holistic rehabilitation care
Two years ago, thanks to local outreach teams, Priti's family discovered the rehabilitation center supported by Humanity & Inclusion in Biratnagar.
The center is in the nearest town, an hour’s drive from their home. The journey isn't easy as the roads are poor and transporting Priti is complicated. But her family is determined; they won't give up. They’ll do whatever it takes to improve their daughter’s existence.
When they first took Priti to the center, they met with the team of physical therapists and discovered what it could offer them: a specially adapted chair, support in obtaining financial aid from the local government and long-term physical therapy to improve Priti’s quality of life.
Since then, they visit the center once a month to be shown new exercises by Rinki, the physical therapist who has been working with Priti from the start. Then, every day, her mother helps Priti do these exercises at home.
"It's a challenge, both for Priti and for me, but I want to keep doing it for my daughter's sake,” Uma explains. “Progress is variable; it takes time. But I’m happy with the way things are going.”
Rinki also provides tele-rehabilitation sessions. Priti's mother contacts her by video-call and they do the exercises together from a distance. These remote sessions mean that the family doesn’t have to travel all the way to the center for the slightest issue and Priti benefits from in-depth and regular support.
“The results show clear progress; every part of her body is gradually becoming less rigid,” explains Rinki. “For example, before she couldn't open her hands. They were completely curled in on themselves. Now her hand opens and closes much more easily. What's more, thanks to the chair specially designed for children with cerebral palsy, Priti can now sit up and take hold of objects in front of her. These exercises are essential for her development and well-being. Every morning, Priti's mom puts her in this chair for 30 minutes and helps her do exercises.”
Priti’s favorite time of the day is when her brother comes home from school. She crawls to him and stays beside him while he does his homework. Her brother is very close to Priti and loves it when she keeps him company while he studies.
“It's like she wants to learn what he’s learning at school; she tries to see what he’s doing,” Uma says. “If we move her away from him, she throws a tantrum.”
Accessibility challenges in Nepal
The road ahead is long and will be far from easy, especially in Nepal. Priti's parents are worried. They know that she will never be autonomous because Nepal lacks accessible infrastructure—adapted schools, high-tech electric wheelchairs, etc.
"There is a school in Kathmandu that provides rehabilitation and education to children with cerebral palsy,” Uma adds. “I hope that one day there’ll be a school like that here in Biratnagar. It would allow Priti to go to school and have even more rehabilitation exercises—and it would allow me to go back to work.”
In Nepal, through five partner-run rehabilitation centers, HI is working to assist as many people with disabilities as possible—people like Priti. Local teams are working toward a more equitable and inclusive society where every human being can find their place and be treated with dignity
Kabita, 21, lives in Banke, a district in the southern plains of western Nepal. When she was younger, she acquired a physical disability in a road accident. Kabita's physical disability and the inaccessible education system prevented her from continuing school, like many girls in her community. As a child, she experienced societal stigma and discrimination.
"I never had a chance to play with other children, attend a marriage function and party," Kabita says. "I could not participate in our cultural rituals in the village. I never wanted to attend and participate anywhere due to my functional limitations and the behaviors of family and community members."
Her strong determination, combined with family support and participation in the ENGAGE project in 2018, manifested changes in her life. Through the project managed by Humanity & Inclusion and partners, she attended a bridge class for nine months, enhancing her literacy and math skills. Later, she decided to pursue a career as an e-rickshaw driver, a male-dominated profession.
Kabita sometimes became discouraged because of misconceptions: "You can't drive a rickshaw; it's a hassle to get to the market; handling passengers is difficult; you can't sustain in the market," Kabita explains. Kabita and her family were visited regularly by Humanity & Inclusion's team and its local partner staff who provided counseling to help overcome the barriers. With support from the project, she learned to drive and received start-up funds to purchase an e-rickshaw. Kabita succeeded in breaking the stigma associated with disability and the prevailing gender stereotype about her profession of choice.
"I make really good money and I provide service to people," Kabita says.
Kabita is now confident in her profession and earns 1,000 to 1,700 Nepalese Rupees—$7 to $14 USD—each day. Having already paid six installments, she is saving money for extra batteries and maintenance of the rickshaw. She has set an excellent example that girls with disabilities can pursue their dreams and be an inspiration to others.
“Women with disabilities are neglected in the family and society due to their limitations, and face a multitude of barriers due to lack of enabling environment," says Indra Bista, Disability Inclusion Technical Officer at Humanity & Inclusion Nepal. "They are least prioritized in social activities and career development opportunities."
"In remote villages where families live in vulnerable conditions, women with disabilities are more vulnerable than other members of the family," Bista adds. "Whether it's access to education, health and livelihood, they are always denied their rights."
This story is part of the Empowering a new generation of adolescent girls with education- ENGAGE project, which aims to support girls in gaining a quality education and developing skills to earn a decent living. This initiative has been made possible with funding support from UK Aid through the Girls Education Challenge (GEC), as well as leadership from VSO. It is run by Humanity & Inclusion and its local partner organization, Disabled Empowerment and Communication Center, Banke.
Sundari, 11, has an intellectual disability that creates memory and learning difficulties. With the support of Humanity & Inclusion in Nepal, she’s enrolled in a class adapted to her needs.
A fifth grader, Sundari lives in a dormitory at the school, which is more than 60 miles away from her home. Her favorite subject is science. She recently made a presentation to her classmates in which she drew an animal cell on the whiteboard and talked about its different parts.
“I want to become a doctor one day to save people’s lives and help the elderly,” Sundari explains.
Sundari spends most of her time with her best friend, Bipana. Together, they play Ludo, a strategy board game that is Sundari’s favorite.
"Sundari is very open and friendly,” Bipana says. “She sometimes gets angry, but I can calm her down really quickly."
Inclusive education resources
The resource class in Sundari’s school caters to 30 students with disabilities. Children learn the Nepali and English alphabets, numbers, words, body parts, as well as hygiene and self-care. When they’re ready, students join their classmates for inclusive lessons.
“Sundari was enrolled in the resource class – a class where children with intellectual disabilities study together - when she was 5 years old,” explains her teacher, Bhupendra Khadka. “She was enrolled during her early childhood development years and has since progressed to mainstream classes. She is now second in her class.”
Children in resources classes range in age from 7 to 17, with some even in their 20s. Like Sundari, some transition to mainstream classes after a few years in a resource class.
Over the past four years, the school’s resource class has been supported by Humanity & Inclusion and its local partner HUSADEC (Human Rights, Social Awareness and Development Center). Resource classes welcome children with a range of disabilities, including sensory and intellectual disabilities.
Only 380 of Nepal's 30,000 schools have resource classes, and Humanity & Inclusion supports a 50 of them. Teams provide educational materials adapted to the needs of children with disabilities, including braille books or sign language learning mobile applications. Other support materials include foam letters, word cards, toy balls, storybooks in local languages and stationery. Educators are also trained to adapt their teaching methods to the needs of children with disabilities.
Last school year, Humanity & Inclusion also provided hygiene kits and school bags to 500 students with disabilities in 46 resource classes across 10 districts to help them continue to learn during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Promoting disability inclusion
Uttam Prasad Bhattarai, the headmaster of Sundari’s school, explains that in rural villages, acceptance of children with disabilities can be challenging.
“There is a social stigma associated with disability,” Bhattarai says. “When children with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities, enter a mainstream class after their entrance examination, some parents of children without disabilities are reluctant to send their children to the school. Children with disabilities tend to enroll in school at later ages than their peers and so they are older than their classmates."
Humanity & Inclusion and its local partners continue to fight for access to education for children with disabilities.
The resource classes have been supported by Humanity & Inclusion and its local partner since May 2018 as part of the Reading for All program, which is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Pralhad Gairapipli, Humanity & Inclusion's regional communications officer for India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, reflects on working for the organization as it celebrates its 40th anniversary.
There are so many people who say "I love my job", but how often do they really mean it?
This is a statement I can honestly make. “Okay Pralhad, why,” you may ask.
No matter how short a time I spend together with someone—a colleague, a teacher, a person with a disability, I enjoy the opportunity to listen their story. To have someone open up to me, especially on a personal level, is an honor, and I value the trust that builds between a source and a communication professional.
Pralhad is a communications professional with more than ten years of experience, including that with more than five years with HI. He holds a master's degree in Sociology as well as a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication.
Moreover, communications is like going back to school in a way because you are constantly learning something completely new or being introduced to people you never would have known otherwise. Do you agree that continually learning about multiple areas and topics keeps the job interesting?
When you love what you do, you tend to feel a sense of purpose and belonging. Working hours tend to fly by when your company's values align with your own or when you find yourself valued for what you do. An adored job can often leave you feeling upbeat at the end of each day. You will maintain a positive attitude even on the most challenging days if you are genuinely passionate about your job.
As part of my work, I get to connect with so many incredible individuals on a daily basis whether it be in person, via phone, emails or social media. From Dharma in western Nepal to Sandip in eastern Nepal, all of these stories reflect resilience, motivation, and determination in individuals and their families. Whether the goal is networking and representing Humanity & Inclusion, sharing the work the organization does, or listening to stories and sharing lessons learned, these all have one thing in common: They spark a CONNECTION.
As part of HI’s effort to Covid-19, Pralhad worked closely with the Nepalese Ministry of Health and Population, as well as various development agencies and organizations of people with disabilities to develop prevention messages that are accessible to people with disabilities. He took leadership in engaging popular celebrities in engaging for raising awareness on importance of inclusion and accessibility for HI’s India and Nepal program. In addition, he wrote opinion pieces and appeared on radio and television to promote accessibility during times of crisis for inclusive risk communication.
That is another reason why I am passionate about my job. Preparing for an interview or presenting my knowledge or ideas on a subject is one of my favorite things to do. For example, take my recent interview with a Live Television Program in Chitwan, or my blog published at UNESCO or my first opinion piece published at a national daily about social work or my opinion piece about importance of accessibility, or it be my recent radio interview with Radio Nepal during my field visit to Dhankuta, an eastern hilly district of Nepal.
Isn't it nice to get an opportunity to thrive professionally and be paid to do so many things you enjoy? Which part of your job makes you smile the most?
It was a great honor to meet and talk to Jhamak Ghimire (below), a noted Nepalese literary figure at her ancestral home of Dhankuta, Nepal, during a recent field visit to HI’s project area. Ghimire, 40, born with cerebral palsy, is a leading literary figure of Nepal. She is a true inspiration and a symbol of courage to people with disabilities around the world.
Nisha Rai and Reshma Shrestha agree that love and patience are essential in understanding and supporting the learning needs of children with disabilities. The two women work as learning facilitators for the USAID-funded Reading for All program in Nepal.
Rai, who has a master's degree in social science, learned about the vacancy of a learning facilitator in Dhankuta from her brother when she was looking to start her career. So, she applied and began working in April 2021 to support children with intellectual disabilities in the resource classroom.
Rai, pictured above, completed a brief orientation provided by Reading For All staff on the types of disabilities and children she would support. Rai explains that she never had any friends, neighbors or family members living with a disability, so the training she received about disability, functional limitations, learning materials, and behavioral skills have made it easier for her to support the students.
"Initially, I was not sure if I would be able to continue to support the children with intellectual disability, but eventually I have learned to engage with them and love my work," Rai says.
Rai works regularly at the Shree Aadharbhut School's Intellectual Resource Class, where she engages with children using functional toys like balls and sponge letters, as well as electronic tablets. She is proud to see the children welcoming her with smiling faces and gestures every day.
Similar to Rai, Shrestha is a learning facilitator in the Bhaktapur district. She supports children who are blind or have low vision in their studies and beams when describing the value she has found in working with children. Shrestha’s desire to better assist students with low vision motivated her to learn basic braille.
Before becoming a learning facilitator, Shrestha’s experience working with people with disabilities was limited to an internship at a community-based rehabilitation organization. In April 2021, she joined the Reading For All program with the goal of bringing positive change to the lives of children with disabilities.
Shrestha’s loving and caring nature has helped her quickly bond with children and build trust with students’ family members.
Sanju Adhikari, a Reading For All learning facilitator, supports a student who has a disability at a school in Dhankuta.
Barriers to inclusive education
Children with disabilities face challenging barriers to education. Nearly 50% of children with disabilities do not attend school. For every child to learn and develop the skills they need to succeed, they need an inclusive education. According to a study by Humanity & Inclusion, 83% of parents and caregivers of children with disabilities worried that their children would fall further behind in school because of Covid-19.
During the pandemic, the Reading For All program supported 35 resource classrooms with 62 learning facilitators, like Rai and Shrestha, to bridge the learning. Most of the learning facilitators were newly introduced to disability-inclusive education and are continuing careers in the field. These learning facilitators supported children by developing individualized education plans.
“In order to ensure we Leave No One Behind and to meet SDG4, inclusive education goes beyond enrollment in the classroom and requires trained teachers, adequate learning resources, adapted school infrastructure, and engaged parents,” adds Sanju Nepali, Inclusive Education Specialist for Humanity & Inclusion in Nepal.
After losing his leg in a road accident, Sandip was fitted with an artificial limb by Humanity & Inclusion and its partners.
In Nepal, road accidents are the second most common cause of injury. When he was 14, the truck Sandip was riding in was involved in a traffic crash in Chitwan. He was seriously injured.
“Doctors had to amputate his leg above the knee immediately to prevent further infection,” his mother Sukumaya explains.
Trials of isolation
The accident caused Sandip to have limited mobility. A sixth grader, he ultimately dropped out of school.
“Having lost my leg, I was ashamed to go out or to school,” Sandip says. “I did not see myself going anywhere as I could not walk. As a result, I started staying home, playing games on my phone, and cutting myself off from the outside world.”
Fortunately, Sandip’s family heard about an upcoming health screening camp in their community, providing different services for children with disabilities. These services were implemented by Humanity & Inclusion and its local partners, including Autism Care Chitwan Society, as part of the UK-funded Inclusive Futures Program.
The power of rehabilitation
After the health screening camp, Sandip was referred to the National Disabled Fund, Humanity & Inclusion’s partner, which provides rehabilitation services. The teenager was fitted with an artificial limb, but he didn’t believe he would ever walk again.
“Initially when we met Sandip, he wasn’t convinced by the idea of having rehabilitation care,” says Ramesh Baral, an inclusion officer working with Humanity & Inclusion. “He didn’t trust anyone. He didn’t even believe that an artificial limb and exercises would help him walk.”
“During counseling, we showed him some videos of people with disabilities who have achieved milestones in their lives through rehabilitation care, like walking, going to school, working and dreaming big,” Baral adds.
The counseling helped Sandip understand the power of rehabilitation and realize his own potential. Sandip is determined and making massive improvements. After just four days with his new artificial limb, he found it easy to walk by himself with the parallel bar. Through a 15-day process, Sandip learned how to use his artificial limb through. He completed gait training and learned to balance, stand, shift weight, sit and stand from a chair, and go up and down stairs.
“Training to walk with my new limb is hard work and sometimes painful, but I am confident that when it is over, it will be okay,” he told us.
Sandip’s parents now see a positive future for him. They have seen a change in their son’s attitude, and now Sandip smiles and shares his ambitions and his love of learning.
“Now, I want to read and get help to improve my mobility,” Sandip explains. “Education is my new ambition! I need to study hard so I can get a job and become independent. I have to turn my dreams into reality. I plan to open a mobile repair shop or start working after I complete my education.”
On International Mother Tongue Day (February 21, 2022), let's recognize Nepali Sign Language as the mother tongue for thousands of Deaf people who mainly communicate through Sign language.
Many deaf and hard-of-hearing people use Sign language to communicate. There are many different Sign languages depending on the country, and they are the native languages of the Deaf community. Studies also indicate when a child who is deaf or hard of hearing learns sign language, their ability to learn their native spoken language also improves.
Nepali Sign Language is a medium of communication for Nepal’s deaf community. It is a beautiful combination of facial, hand and body language.
According to the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal, there is a population of more than 300,000 people who are deaf or have hearing difficulties. In Nepal, 15,000 Deaf students attend either 22 specialized schools or 174 resource classrooms that meet their specific needs at inclusive schools.
The Reading for All program promotes an enabling environment to support Deaf students, their families, teachers and other people learn Nepali Sign Language. The project, funded by USAID, provides Deaf people a prospect to interact with people who do not sign. To enhance basic Nepali Sign Language skills, the project has developed a learning application called “Mero Sanket.” The free app is available for download on Android devices at the Google Play Store. This is the result of collaboration through the program, which is implemented by Humanity & Inclusion in partnership with World Education, the National Federation of Deaf Nepal, and the Government of Nepal.
Mero Sanket app promotes communication
Twelve-year-old Abhishek (pictured above) acquired hearing loss when he was 6. He only recently enrolled in a resource class in the western district of Dang in 2021, but his learning was interrupted due to Covid-19 lockdowns.
Initially, Abhishek didn’t seem interested, but Mero Sanket helped to fill a learning gap for him. With the facilitation and motivation of learning facilitator, he agreed to start learning. The project’s learning facilitator introduced the app to the children, helping them interact and continue with their learning during the school's closure. Later, Abhishek found the graphics and video with signs interesting.
“My son used to dress himself up, and wait for the learning facilitator,” Abhishek’s father said recently. “We are now so happy to see the interest and progress of our son in learning."
Since the launch of the app, facilitators have been instrumental in providing remedial support to Deaf and hard-of-hearing children.
“This app is very useful for those who even don’t know or partly knows Nepali Sign Language, especially teachers,” says Sapana Pokhrel, a learning facilitator from Surkhet, in Nepal’s Karnali Province. “They can communicate with the Deaf children. The self-evaluation session in this app is very useful. This is also practical, as it enables discussions on daily-use activities such as greetings, food, hygiene, and sanitation.”
“This app puts Nepali Sign Language into the hands of anyone with an interest in learning it. We wish to take more initiatives to promote inclusive education by developing an additional learning material together and to lay the groundwork for more expanded education opportunities for deaf children," a statement of the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal explains.
"Voice is not only the sound, but also a way of expressing emotions," says Sujata Rai, Project Officer in Dhankuta, a district in Nepal’s Province-1. She wonders how isolated one can feel if they cannot express their feelings as others in their mother tongue.
Reading for All works with children with a variety of disabilities, including children who are Deaf. “Mero Sanket” helps to enhance the learning skills of children, leaning on a Nepali Sign Language learning method with animated features. The objective is to bridge any learning loss children experience during Covid-19, and optimize their learning skills.
The project has already provided 302 digital learning tablets with the “Mero Sanket” app to children and teachers of resource classes. In addition, a 10-day basic Nepali Sign Language training for resource class teachers enhanced the communication in deaf resource classes.
The project is also supporting children with hearing difficulties to connect with their families, friends and teachers through Nepali Sign Language.
Laxman from Dhankuta, had dropped out of school. Despite his family’s best efforts, he refused to return. After receiving support from a learning facilitator, he changed his mind, and re-enrolled at school. "Mero Sanket" has made him interested in studying, and serves as an important learning tool for improved communications with teachers and fellow students.
Parents are also benefiting from "Mero Sanket." Rishi Ram Poudel from Kaski is the father of Manjil, who was born with limited hearing.
“Sign language plays the vital role in our communication within family members," the father explains. He had been struggling to communicate with his son before. With the "Mero Sanket" app, and the help of a learning facilitator who explained how it works, Manjil and his father can communicate more easily.
Prabin, 5, lives in southeastern Nepal with his parents. He was born without the lower part of his right leg.
“Because of the disability of our child we were worried about his future,” says Sunita, Prabin’s mother.
A community mobilizer from Community Based Rehabilitation-Biratnagar (CBRB), a local partner organization of Humanity & Inclusion, met Prabin and referred the family to seek services at a rehabilitation center.
At first, Prabin was hesitant to be fitted with an artificial limb. Specialists worked with the boy and his parents to better understand how the device would work, and how it would help him. A month later, he was eager to have a new leg.
“This was a wonderful change for our little boy, as he quickly accepted the prosthesis and began playing, running, and even jumping like any other child of his age,” Sunita explains.
Prabin attends school and loves to play with his toys.
Ambika Sharma, a specialist in artificial limbs and orthopedic braces at CBRB, worked with the family.
“Initially, it was challenging to fit Prabin with an artificial limb because he was not accepting,” Sharma says. “But his parents made it possible with their supervision and guidance. It was an amazing experience for us to see him happy with prosthesis.”
As Prabin gets older, he will need to be fitted with new devices.
“Growth is an important aspect of a child's life,” Sharma continues. “As their bodies change, prostheses have to be adapted or changed in the similar manner to accommodate them. Just as they outgrow shirts, pants, and shoes, they will outgrow their prostheses."
These rehabilitation services are supported by USAID.