A handicrafts business in Pokhara is helping young, disabled Nepalis become economically independent
PICS: HARIZ BAHARUDIN
Three years ago, Dinesh Kumar Thapa met a 13-year-old deaf child begging on the streets of Pokhara. The native of Kaski would occasionally give him food and money. However, a few weeks later, Thapa found out that the boy had drowned in Phewa Lake and died.
For a while Dinesh was consumed by guilt, which in turn led him to hire an instructor to teach two hearing-impaired children from the Deaf Association in Pokhara. Then in September 2011, he started Helping Hands to train deaf and blind people to make handicrafts.
Today, the company employs 25 locals and helps them become economically independent. “I wanted to give young, disabled Nepalis a means to contribute to society,” explains Thapa.
In addition to a monthly salary, Helping Hands also provides free accommodation and food to all its workers.
Each employee takes about four months to learn how to operate the handlooms. The shawls, scarves and carpets are sold through outlets in Pokhara and Kathmandu and exported as far as the UK and Canada. Some of Thapa’s former workers have started their own clothing business in other parts of Nepal, using the skills they learnt at Helping Hands.
The organisation discourages donations because it wants patrons to support the workers by buying the goods. Says Thapa: “Donations are one-time only, but when people buy our products and wear them, our business improves through word-of-mouth.”
In addition to the textile shop, Helping Hands runs a spa in Lakeside where disabled youth are trained to be massage therapists. Customers can enjoy a range of services like Swedish massage, body scrub, pedicures, and hot stone therapy.
Dinesh now plans to expand the company and open new shops outside the Valley so that more people in need can be trained and become productive. When asked about what inspires his team, the 30-year-old owner says they are encouraged by each other’s resilience and determination.
“Being blind or deaf is not the end of the world and we want to show that people with disabilities can make their own living and be equal members of society,” he explains.
Helping Hands Handicraft
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