A complicated machine monitors his heavy breathing.
“Nu 7,000 went for rent and I was working a job which paid me just Nu 4,900,” says Passang Wangmo. Every minute of the tough phase is still fresh in her memory. It was 2012.
An accident caused a serious head injury to Sangay; he lost his hearing ability altogether. Life would never be the same again.
In the midst of helplessness, Sangay found hope in an organisation. Draktsho is a combination of two Bhutanese words, “Drak” meaning ‘cliff or high mountain’ and “Tsho”, meaning ‘sea or ocean’. Together the words describe the height and depth of the organisation, its goals and aspirations.
Pema would leave for work. That got Sangay worried. He felt pained and helpless.
Pema knew about Draktsho through her friend. Unsure what to expect, the couple talked about the possibility of help and kept the hope alive.
Sangay visited Draktsho the next day. He was asked to choose a field of interest for training and was immediately taken in. After four years of training at the Centre, Sangay is now a part of the production team and earns for his family.
Draktsho was established on October 2, 2001 with the blessings of Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck, who is also the President of the Youth Development Fund (YDF).
Draktsho’s founder, Rigzin Padma Tshogyal, says that during her days as a volunteer at the referral hospital in Thimphu, she had observed many disabled children with communication ability left without education. She started giving flower-making classes for three years to eight students in a small garage. When more students started seeking her help, she started thinking big. She felt the need for an institute to help these groups of people in the society.
Draktsho Vocational Training Centre for Special Children and Youth is a non-profit organisation for people with all types of disability. Draktsho works to equip the disabled with vocational skills to enhance their opportunities for gainful employment. It also aims to build their self-esteem and self-reliance, making them more independent, confident, and contributing members of the society.
More than 200 students have enrolled in Thimphu and Tashigang Draktsho Centre. More than 40 students have availed of help through Drakstho to become part of the community through employment opportunities in other dzongkhags. There are 11 graduates working at the centre today. Drakstho also monitors the graduates working at other places. They are not forgotten or left in the lurch after they leave the centre.
Due to the lack of strong advocacy about education of children with disabilities, accessibility and services available for the education of children with disabilities remain largely unmet.
Programme Officer, Gaden Chophel, said, “Draktsho aims to provide vocational training to young people with disabilities falling within the age group of 15-20 years. But we also include those between the age group of 13 to 30 years.”
Today, Draktsho provides training on tailoring, embroidery, woodcarving, traditional art and painting, weaving, knitting, souvenir making, pre-vocational training and special education. The products from the trainees also make to the showroom for sale.
In Thimphu, the centre is open for five days a week from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm with transportation service for the students.
Drakstsho East, a branch office established at Rongthung, Tashigang in 2010, caters to the needs of similar students in the eastern part of the country. The branch at Tashigang provides boarding services.
Rigzin Padma Tshogyal said: “The good thing about Draktsho is that even if a person becomes old, or even if someone can’t master a training, we don’t ask them to leave. They can live here as long as they wish to because they like being here.”
The centre also gives opportunity to students to participate in the Special Olympics Pacific through Special Olympic Bhutan. Students perform cultural programmes too.
Financial support and lack of infrastructure has been some of the challenges facing the centre.
Draktsho plans to bring different levels of training for students depending upon individual’s capability to learn.
Rigzin Padma Tshogyal said: “If we can get funds in the future, we plan to have branch offices in other dzongkhangs as well.”
“Persons with disabilities in Bhutan will actively and equitably participate in socio-economic development of the country and live a fulfilling life.”
“To ensure young persons with disabilities in Bhutan are provided with quality opportunities for developinh skills for life and vocation, and for becoming self-reliant, making a living and leading a contented life by overcoming barriers created by gender or other difference.”
The centre’s main focus is to impart training in various vaocational skills, life skills and speaial education.
It provides children and youth with disabilities with opportunities, which allow them to grow in their aptitudes and determination and to realize their goals and dreams. Ultimately, the hope is to help them become happy, independent, and confident members of society.