A few weeks ago I spoke about a service trip I was taking to Nepal. A learning question we grappled with throughout the trip was What is poverty?
‘Poverty’ is usually used in terms of finances, but there are other types of poverty as well. In the middle-class developed world we most often encounter emotional and spiritual poverty, although we are aware of those who face homelessness and receive government support to purchase food.
But what if financial poverty is coupled with social/emotional poverty and governmental support does not exist?
Physical Disabilities in Rural Nepal
Some of the first people we met in Western Nepal were socially impoverished from birth through no fault of their own. They were born with physical disabilities. In rural Nepal many still subscribe to the superstition that a person is born disabled as a result of behaviours, or karma, from past lives.
The ‘logic’ then extends to a belief that if a person’s disability was karma, he or she has no place in the community. Without a place in an impoverished community, a person is thrust into a life-threatening situation.
Fewer than six months ago, a group of physically disabled people in Western Nepal were given the opportunity to go into business for themselves. Lutheran World Federation found the building and helped finance the supplies that have helped some people with disabilities begin to make a living for their families.
The image below most likely doesn’t fit your initial mental image of a ‘factory’ (it didn’t fit mine!). Yet it gives the people a place of their own to meet and to work.
Aadesh, pictured below, manages the current factory. Aadesh is visually impaired. On a daily basis, he helps back the candles into plastic. He also has a keen business mind and is establishing a consistent local market.
Those in the factory have a long-term business plan that they were proud to share with us. Through the translators at Lutheran World Federation, we learned that the business plan includes the following goals:
- continue to increase the numbers of employees to better meet the current demand for the product
- continue to increase their product and income
- increase their market through the use of media
- aid others with disabilities who are not currently able to work in a factory such as theirs. This may mean better factory working conditions that will allow for workers with a greater range of disabilities
- save for more permanent work facilities
Decisions are made by the group of workers who keeps meticulous records of income and expenses. Their plans and accomplishments are shared with Lutheran World Federation and Lutheran World Federation plans to help them expand.
Beyond the income the workers earn through the business, Aadesh and the others have established a respected place in their local community. Those who formerly held superstitious beliefs see the workers as capable and valuable members of society. They see the local economy growing because of their work.
In the future, Lutheran World Federation will help these factory owners organise as human rights defenders. In that capacity, they can show people with disabilities who reside in other communities that they also have a valuable place in the community.
Abyaha, pictured to the left, is a sharp business woman from Eastern Nepal who has started her own small shop. She contracted polio at an early age and was shunned by the community. When her parents passed away, she was left on her own with no friends and no community support.
She now has a prominent place in the community as a local business owner.
Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has only been working with people with disabilities for three years.
During that time, the government has made some provisions for people with disabilities at a policy level. LWF now helps ensure that those with disabilities claim their rights and receive the provisions allowed by the law.
Escape from Poverty
In the developing world, poverty is a cycle of bondage. Without a small infusion of capital, the initial advocacy, and personal empowerment, the cycle of poverty continues. It is an honour to be associated with a group that helps people establish sustainable businesses, establish a respected place in the community and be empowered to self-advocate.
Should you have a passion for helping people with disabilities, you can earmark funds toward that effort. Donations can be made to
Australia Lutheran World Service
PO Box 488
Albury NSW 2640
Classrooms might want to purchase specific items like goat, piglet, pushcarts, or more (all who receive the gifts are educated to use them as part of their sustainability empowerment). They can do that by making a Gift of Grace.
They also currently have a way to give for emergency relief efforts in the fight against Ebola. You can donate online.