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A home at last?

Two years back Goembo, 22, from Gangzur, Kurtoe, was brought to the JDWNR hospital with a fractured spine from a motorbike accident. He is partially paralyzed from the waist down.But the tragedy in Goembos life in fact began long before the accident. A closer probing of his life unfolds a tale of family negligence, ill-treatment, suffering and endurance.

Goembo working on a painting at home in the JDWNR hospital

The youngest of four children, Goembos parents divorced when he was barely a year old. He was left in the care of his mothers elder sister. But the hardship in his life had just begun.

While his aunts children attended school, he was made to tend cattle and do all the back-breaking work. His aunts and uncles cruelty and partiality became so intolerable that he ran away to his mother and step-father in Samtse when he was 14 years old.

But there, too, he found that life was just the same. With four children from her second marriage, his mother was indifferent to him while his stepfather was mistrustful and foul-tempered about his presence in the house.

He left his mothers house and led a wanderers life in Samtse and Phuentsholing. He lived off the generosity of his friends and at times scraped a living by doing odd jobs for just about anyone. He lived each day as it came and on the terms it dictated to him.

Until the accident in the summer of 1999 that changed his life.

Despite the consequences, Goembo considers the accident providential. True it has rendered him a partial paraplegic but, ironic as it may sound, it has also helped him turn a new lease of life.

A little over a year back, Goembo was introduced by an acquaintance to an active but low profile Thimphu volunteer and social worker. She, along with another prominent volunteer and co-founder of VAST, Asha Kama, decided to help Goembo find a foothold in life.

They taught him card and envelope making, sketching and painting. With their help, he made commercial cards and put them up for sale in the VAST gallery. His cards sold well. We even received orders for Goembos cards from the U.S, says Asha Kama.

Today Goembo is a full and active member of VAST. He attends regular classes at VAST and takes part in all its activities.

Our whole idea is to instill confidence in him and make him independent, says Asha Kama.
Indeed independence is closest to Goembos own heart and inspires him to persevere in whatever he does. He is deeply concerned that he has been a liability to the hospital, where he has been living for the past two years.

I want to find a place of my own and move out as soon as I can. The hospital has been very kind to me but I know they cannot go on being nice to me forever, he says.

His benefactors and friends at VAST are also eager to see him settled on his own. They are all helping him find an affordable place.

Goembo, who is otherwise satisfied with the way his life has shaped up lately, says the greatest regret in his life is not having had the opportunity to study. When I see people talking in English and working in offices I really wish that I could be like one of them, he says.

But perhaps it is not too late. Twice a week he attends English classes organized for him and a couple of other disadvantaged youth by some benefactors. He says that he can now read and speak a bit of English.

An incorrigible sports freak, Goembo also nurses a burning desire to take up archery and represent the country someday in the games for the disabled. When I see disabled people playing games on television, I get really fired up. I cannot help feeling that I can be as good as them or even better, he declares.

Goembo, for whom disability has never been an embarrassment or hindrance, feels that disabled people should come forward and play an active role in society. We are human beings as much as others are. We can do the things that other people can do. All we need is a bit of extra will power, he says.

Willpower is what characterizes this soft-spoken been-through-it-all youth from Kurtoe. It surely ought to stand him in good stead.

By Tshering Gyeltshen

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