The Need in Bhutan
"Opening Your Heart to Bhutan is a registered UK charity whose work has been recognised by the British Prime Minister"
Bhutan is a mountainous, landlocked country in central Asia with a small, isolated and dispersed population. Communities living in rural locations find it extremely challenging to travel locally and almost impossible to access specialist medical care and physiotherapy.
Despite substantial investment almost halving poverty levels across the country since 2007, recent studies show that inequality in the country is growing, with people living in the rural east almost nine times more likely to lack access to basic healthcare, education or decent living standards than those in the urban West. The eastern settlements are home to 94% of the country's poor. They live on less than $1 a day and one-third of children there suffer from basic malnutrition.
UNICEF studies identify that almost one in five children living in Bhutan has some sort of disability. However, in a deeply religious country disability is often misinterpreted as a misfortune resulting from parental sin, and goes untreated unless it affects a child's ability to work the land.
Opening Your Heart to Bhutan believe that everybody has the right to live their lives to the fullest potential and that the stigma of disability will continue unless disabled children receive the vocational education and life skills they need to help secure employment and live fulfilling lives as part of the wider population.
The needs of children in this area are often best explained by their stories.
READ THEIR STORIES
Tshering was sleeping on the bare floor when Emma first met him following the sudden death of his mother. He was one of five children; his 13 year old sister was attempting to look after the family while their father worked on the roads.
The charity bought new mattresses and bedding for the family, provided them with hot water and ensured that Tshering's brother received emergency treatment for hearing loss.
£250 from British donors helped a child regain their hearing and a family recover from the loss of the mother.
Narkum was 19 when she first met Emma, and had never walked. Confined to one room, she had never been to school or received an education.
The charity transferred Narkum to a nearby hospital where she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and received intensive physiotherapy. She now walks with the aid of a frame and has started her education aged 20 at Drak-tsho's school in Thimpu.
£300 from British donors has expanded Narkum's horizons and given her a chance in life.
Dechen was 24 when she first met Emma. She was a fiercely bright girl, whose hopes of being a teacher were dashed when a mystery illness left her paralysed and doubly incontinent at the age of 21. She had been offered a teaching position at a nearby school but was unable to take it up without incontinence pads.
The charity raised money for two years worth of pads and set her on the path to being a teacher. She has since moved into the school, built her confidence and is helping the next generation.
£1000 from British donors has provided sixty children with a teacher and radically turned her life around.