Long-term development saves lives, sometimes in unexpected ways.
Partnership for Rehabilitation (PFR) is a project of TEAR’s long-term partner, the International Nepal Fellowship (INF). TEAR has provided funding support for PFR since 2006 (and currently co-funds PFR with INF Australia). PFR helps people living with disability and stigma to integrate into their communities – socially, physically and economically. It aims to establish and equip local Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) to work with and for people with disabilities in their communities. The project also assists individuals and families by building livelihoods, training caregivers, and improving the accessibility of homes, schools and primary health centres.
In the wake of the April 25 earthquake in Nepal, staff from PFR have been trying to make contact with clients living in affected project areas to see if they are okay. Many report having lost houses, animals, livelihoods – everything. Many others remain out of contact.
Samantan is a PFR client who sustained a spinal cord injury many years ago and therefore uses a wheelchair to move around his community. He lives in Gorkha, one of the worst affected districts in Nepal. Last November, PFR arranged for a ramp and wheelchair accessible toilet to be built at Samantan’s house. Many houses in Nepal are impossible to access by a wheelchair. In the hilly areas, houses are also often built on a slope, with very little flat land around them.
When asked how he was, Samantan replied: “Well, my house is badly damaged, but I am very happy.” Why? “I was alone at home (when the earthquake struck), but because PFR built me a ramp, I was able to get out of the house and I am alive.” Samantan had three small children with him at the time and was also able to help them get out of the house. He is now staying with his family in the buffalo shed, which has remained upright. Although Samantan and his family have enough food, he is concerned that when the monsoon comes, their shelter will not be safe to live in.
After talking to Samantan, the PFR staff reflected on the significance of working alongside people with disabilities to be independent and resilient. “We don't expect our work of building ramps and making homes accessible to be life saving in that way... but what a great testimony to the importance of the work.”
International Nepal Fellowship (INF Nepal), a TEAR Australia partner, work in the areas of health and community development in the western and mid-western regions of Nepal. INF Nepal is a Christian non-government organisation aiming to “demonstrate God’s love and concern, and restore people’s relationships with each other, so they can live dignified lives to the full”. TEAR supports a number of INF Nepal projects including: long-term community development work; Partnership for Rehabilitation, which works with people living with disabilities; and Paluwa, which focuses on people living with HIV and AIDs. INF Nepal’s initial earthquake relief response was fully supported through other funding partnerships. They are in the process of planning longer-term recovery work that TEAR will have an opportunity to support.